Teacher Tuesday: Heather Potocki


Courtesy of Potocki

Potocki with her family.

Gina Ko

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what hobbies/sports you do.

A: I grew up in Plymouth and graduated from Central Michigan University. I did student teaching abroad in Australia. I double majored in math and art education. After college, I moved to Arizona, and I was there for 10 years teaching high school math and then I was a middle school counselor. I have two kiddos, a third grader and then a kindergartner. Once I moved back to Arizona, I got my job here and I’ve been here ever since. In terms of what hobbies I do like to work out I do like hiit workouts. And I enjoy spending time with my kids and I enjoy being outside and then I also really liked playing with them. 


Q: What do you teach and why?

A: I’m a school counselor. So I guess you could say that I teach students how to manage stuff, how to manage emotions, how to manage relationships, how to manage the stress from school, and how to manage communication with others.


Q: Have you always been interested in teaching?

A: Yes. So when I was little I was dead set that I was going to be a teacher. I was probably overconfident. I felt like I would be good at anything that I decided that I wanted to do. And I decided that being an educator would make the biggest impact on the world. And then when I coached varsity swimming for five years in Arizona, I noticed that students would have things weighing them down like they were off in the pool and I would bring them out, “Hey, what’s going on?” They would talk to me about what’s happening. We would help solve situations that once they got back in the pool, you could see that they were kind of back to who they were. They just really needed to talk and get things off of your chest and plan something out with somebody else opposed to just letting all of your thoughts and things going on stay inside their head. And so one after my first year of coaching I had said that this is what I want to do. And then I got my Master’s in Education with a school counseling focus. 


Q: What/who inspired you to become a teacher?

A: In terms of getting into education, I remember having an Algebra Two teacher in my junior year. That just seems so awful. And I remember seeing other kids struggling in this class. I was fine with it. I didn’t struggle but I could see other kids struggling and not getting it. And I felt like where I could make a big impact is being a good teacher and really helping kids. And so math came easy to me. So when I would help other kids in class, it would challenge me to become better at it to be able to communicate with others. And so, really, I think being in high school math classes is what taught me I wanted to be a high school math teacher.


Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: There’s not much in the limited free time but I do have it working out. I’ve actually picked up audio books in the last year because as a mom you do a lot of driving, a lot of laundry, a lot of dishes, and a lot of waiting for your kids to get out of inactivity. And so those are times that if I can’t physically read a book, I can at least listen to it. And I’ve gotten a lot of books read that way by listening to audiobooks. I live in Northville and that commute itself I can get an hour of reading just by listening to audiobooks like driving to and from work. I try to work out and try to spend time with the kids. 


Q: What is one motto you will always live by?

A: I don’t know if it’s really a motto, but feel your emotions, but don’t live there. Don’t live in that space. The whole entire point of advice is to grow. Because we’re not the same people who we were when we were born, right? And so learn from the experiences that you have and just grow from that. Don’t get bogged down on maybe having a bad class or having a bad grade. But [think about] what did I learn from that? What can I take from that to help me in the future? Even as an adult, the reactions that I have with other people, or if I’m not happy with how something is going in my life, I’m the one that can control it, and then that can change. And so just always continuing to learn and grow from your experiences. 


Q: What is your favorite teaching moment?

A:  I just had my first graduating class in 2022 that I had worked with all four years in high school and seeing those kids being able to graduate and see how much they grew from when they were freshmen to walking across the stage. There were some kids that we never knew if that was going to happen. They were going to be able to walk across the stage and see them being able to do that and accomplish something. There’s two of them specifically that like everyone worked really hard to get these kids to graduate and it was just very rewarding to see my four years working with these kids and seeing that they were able to accomplish something and get them on to their next part of life. 


Q: What surprised you about this year? 

A:  I do have a new role this year. So I am the Department Chair for counseling. I would say that I’m more overwhelmed this year than any other year but I don’t know about surprised. I’m not one that gets surprised by things. I expected it to be a lot of work. I just feel that overwhelmingness. I know that I’m not alone in that kids are overwhelmed, teachers are overwhelmed, staff is overwhelmed. And I think that’s kind of a feeling, post COVID especially.