Meet our Director of Academics – Deb Hedden-Nicely

This month, I’d like to introduce you to Deborah Hedden-Nicely. She is a co-founder and the Director of Academics at Cardinal Academy. Deb was the head teacher of the former Marian Pritchett School for 18 years and taught U.S. History, Government and Economics.



Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I feel like it was Fate that brought me to work with this amazing group of students. I had just finished graduate school at Boise State University, receiving my Master of Arts degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction. I was staying very busy as a substitute teacher while at the same time applying for a permanent teaching position, when I got a call from the Booth Memorial School. They needed a substitute teacher right away for about two weeks. My schedule was unusually clear. I went to the school on a Sunday afternoon to meet with a teacher who told me that Marian Pritchett, who was the Head Teacher, had passed away. She told me that she had a long list of substitutes that she had called. I was the last one on the list, and the only one to answer the call. I worked that two weeks, then was asked to stay for a long-term substitute position. I was hired at the end of the semester as a permanent teacher. I spent the next 18 years working with the most inspiring and amazing student-mothers. Everyday was wonderful, surprising, and challenging, and I felt so very fortunate to be working with an outstanding faculty and staff who cared deeply about helping our students succeed in life.

Prior to my career as an educator, I worked as a journalist, a public information officer, and as co-founder, owner, and publisher in charge of editorial content at the Boise Weekly.

I love being an Enisi (Cherokee for grandmother, pronounced NeeSee) to my granddaughter, Minta, who is a Tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma as is my husband and two sons. I enjoy beading, mostly the necklaces for gorgerettes that my son makes. I love to read, both fiction and nonfiction, but I especially love reading to Minta. And, I love my dogs for their unconditional love and enjoy our long walks. Gardening is a passion of mine and I’m always happy in the garden, the mountains, by a river, or on a beach.

What do you like most about your work with Cardinal Academy?

Definitely the students. It’s always been about the students and their babies, and the idea that when we get to know one another, to care about one another, and to learn together, that great things will happen. The second best thing is when your confident, poised students take the stage at their graduation commencement to give their speeches, tell their stories, make us cry, and receive their diploma that is very much earned and deserved. It is truly glorious!

What are your hopes for CA?

Cardinal Academy is the manifestation of my moral imperative…the work that I am compelled to do, am passionate about, and feel honored and privileged to do. I know that the plan that Emily and I have set forth is a solid foundation on which two generations, our young parents and their children, can build a successful life. In the years to come, I think Cardinal Academy will become embedded in the fabric of the community as an essential and fundamental part of the educational system of the Treasure Velley, ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to receive a quality education that leads to a better future.

What was the best parenting advice you ever got as a mom? 

“You sleep when that baby sleeps!” Mary Jean Hedden, my mother-in-law, and read and sing to your children daily.

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