New St. Joachim principal Heather Forcey stands in front of a garden area at the school. She returns to Madera after spending 20 years in education. She was most recently the vice principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.
When the 2020-2021 school year begins students and parents of St. Joachim of Madera will be greeted by a new addition to the staff.
Heather Forcey, 45, nee Hartman has been appointed the school’s new principal. The Chowchilla native is the daughter of Sharon and the late Don Hartman. She and her husband of 17 years, Eric Forcey, are the parents of two teenage sons, Evan almost 16 and Hudson, almost 13.
After graduating from Chowchilla Union High School in 1993 Forcey earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism from California State University, Fresno in 1997. Additionally, she earned multiple subject teaching credentials from Fresno State and her administrative credential from Fresno Pacific University.
While attending high school, Forcey worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor. In college she was employed in the graphic arts and editorial departments of The Chowchilla News and The Madera Tribune. She also worked in public safety as a dispatcher for the Madera Police Department.
After obtaining her education credential, she began teaching at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Merced in 2000, a position she held for three years. After she met her husband and moved to Clovis, she taught at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School from 2003 to 2020 and served as its vice principal for more than 10 years in Clovis.
St. Joachim Catholic School, established in 1927, has served the greater Madera community providing a quality parochial school education to generations of Madera residents. The present enrollment is at 220 students in preschool through eighth grade.
“We offer a traditional junior high where students have different teachers for different subjects, including differentiated math, geography, science and Spanish,” she said.
She looks forward to becoming immersed in the community as she better gets to know the families of St. Joachim Parish.
“We are blessed to have religious men and women who believe in the importance of Catholic education and help to guide the school with their spiritual prayer and wisdom,” Forcey said. “We have four nuns from the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception involved in the school,” she said. “The priests at St. Joachim Parish are from the Oblates of St. Joseph and are an integral part of the school.”
The school is across the street from St. Joachim Church. As ministry to youth is a particular charism of the Oblates, their support and involvement in the school is especially appreciated. The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception provide students with an invaluable witness of the vocation to the consecrated life.
Between 2003 and 2007, with extensive input from the entire community and the City of Madera, the process to update the Master Plan for St. Joachim School and Church was completed. In December 2007, the demolition and construction of first through eighth grade classrooms were completed. The new classrooms are equipped with the technology needed to maintain the high academic standards for which St. Joachim School is noted.
“I became a teacher because I like teaching kids,” said Forcey. “I have always loved school and learning, and wanted to help students discover a love for learning. It is amazing to see that look of pride when a student grasps a concept they have been struggling with for days. Children have a unique way of looking at the world. I learn from them every day in the classroom. They remind me that there are still so many things left for all of us to learn.”
She is eager for the new school year to start in whatever form it takes.
“Being principal allows me the ability to work with several hundred kids each day. I want them to see me as a role model in their faith and as someone who can help them whenever they need,” Forcey said. “I also want to be a leader for teachers and staff, encouraging ongoing professional development that allows teachers to continue to grow and learn their craft.”
She looks forward to a long association with the St. Joachim School.
“It is my goal to work with teachers and staff to provide a top-notch education while simultaneously integrating our faith into everything we do. I want to make a difference in the lives of our students,” she said.
As for a firm date to assume onsite classes at St. Joachim School, they are still gathering information to determine how Governor Newsom’s mandate will affect private schools, she said.
“Whether we return to school in person or online, the teachers and staff at St. Joachim School are prepared to deliver the highest level of curriculum to students,” she said. “We are blessed to have ChromeBooks for every student in the school that enhances student learning at school or acts as a portal for work and assignments if we must hold classes online.”
St. Joachim School was able to transition to online learning this past March with little trouble, she said. Teachers learned an extensive amount in a short time about how best to deliver an online curriculum. These skills benefit students both in class and at home.
“I am dedicated to this community and to continuing the rich history of St. Joachim School. This school has served the community of Madera for decades and I am honored to have been chosen to continue leading this school in the 21st Century” Forcey said. “I was confirmed at St. Joachim Parish in 2000 and was led by God to teaching in schools where we can openly worship and praise God.
“Shutting down schools this past March was challenging, but it created a space for teachers and principals to grow and expand their abilities to help children grow into the unique individuals God created them to be.”.