About Heather McDonald

Heather McDonald was a dedicated educator who truly believed that, with the right tools, any student could achieve academic success. Heather worked in education for more than 20 years; first as an elementary classroom teacher, then as a K-8 Literacy Coach, K-12 District Coach, and eventually a college adjunct instructor. Though she served in a variety of roles, she was especially dedicated to supporting students in learning how to read. Her passion for literacy led her to seek out best practices in education, and then serve as a mentor to fellow educators.

Heather’s leadership was recognized as she worked alongside classroom educators as a school and district-level literacy specialist in Thomasville City Schools, Guilford County Schools, Davidson County Schools, and Asheboro City Schools. Additionally, she served on the NCDPI Common Core Review Committee which allowed her to analyze feedback from teachers across the state.  

Heather continually sought out resources to improve outcomes for her students. She volunteered with the Augustine Literacy Project and excelled in implementing their curriculum. Heather then connected with Helps Education Fund and our Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS) Program. Heather attended HELPS trainings, implemented the curriculum directly in classrooms, and soon became a HELPS Implementation Coach where she led one-on-one and small group trainings in collaboration with Helps Education Fund staff. In her own words, Heather was extremely proud of her work with the HELPS program and was inspired by the progress she saw from her students.

One core aspect of Heather’s personality was her resilience. In the classroom, she did not let anything stop her from providing students with a high-quality education. In 2018, her Greensboro classroom was hit by a tornado, destroying everything. Heather went above and beyond by purchasing materials and re-designing her temporary classroom to be warm and welcoming for the students as they returned. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Heather again went the extra mile to find new and creative ways to engage her students—using an adorable Alpaca puppet to help hold her students’ interest while they learned remotely. Her efforts showed how much she cared about her students’ academic performance and their comfort as they learned how to overcome adversity.

Heather’s resiliency was tested again in the fall of 2020 when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumor. Heather handled her treatment and diagnosis with grace, even as she and her family faced additional challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions. Sadly, she passed away in December 2020. She was a loving wife (of 20 years) and mother of two. Heather will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

The Heather McDonald Memorial Fund 

Helps Education Fund will hold its first Heather McDonald Memorial HELPS training and launch a Memorial Fund in her honor. We are inspired by Heather’s years of service, and the deep dedication she held for her students and fellow educators. This summer, and throughout the years, Helps Education Fund will carry on her work to connect educators and students with high-quality, evidence-based programs. In memory of Heather, we will collect monetary gifts to provide scholarships to educators to attend training and receive follow-up coaching sessions.

We invite you to join us in honoring Heather McDonald’s work. Here are two ways you can participate:

  • If you are an educator, please consider registering for our first Heather McDonald Memorial HELPS Training. This training will include a brief presentation about her life and work, followed by our 3-hour high-quality and evidence-based HELPS training. To support educators in Heather’s memory, we are offering free registration for the first 15 participants. The standard cost of our training is $65. If you feel moved to contribute, donations of any amount will be attributed to the fund that will further carry out her work of supporting students and fellow educators.
  • If you are not an educator, or if you are not able to participate in the Heather McDonald Memorial HELPS Training, please consider making a donation to the Heather McDonald Memorial Fund. Your gift will help continue her work to support all students and provide high-quality tools and resources to educators. Click here to donate.

The Heather McDonald Memorial Fund will sponsor educators to receive free training and support to implement our high-quality and research-supported HELPS program. If you’d like to join us, here are examples of what your support can do:

  • $30 covers the cost of materials for one student to receive HELPS by a trained educator or community volunteer
  • $60 provides one educator with hard copy materials (3 different books) to implement our HELPS program with dozens of students over time
  • $130 sponsors an educator to attend the Heather McDonald HELPS training and receive follow-up coaching sessions
  • $280 provides a team of educators with a Heather McDonald scholarship so they can attend a 5-part training series to use the HELPS-Small Group Program

We at Helps Education Fund are inspired by Heather’s leadership and dedication. Together we can carry on her legacy and provide more access to evidence-based training for educators and ultimately support students as they build critical foundational skills.