Get to know Senior Class Principal Jamaal Heavens


Addie Gleason

Senior Class Principal Jamaal Heavens works on his computer, preparing materials for seniors and adjusting to the school community.

After previous Senior Class Principal Brionne Smith announced her move to Parkway South, the search began to hire a new principal. Heavens graduated from the University of Illinois in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, then graduated from Concordia University Chicago in 2007 with a master’s in Educational Administration. Heavens recently graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2022 with a doctorate in Educational Administration.

“It’s a little different coming in with seniors, only having one year to get to know them and their families. One of my goals is to make sure that every senior is set up for transitioning after high school the best way possible,” Heavens said. “If that’s going to college, finding employment or going to a trade school, I want [seniors] to be in the best situation possible when they leave at the end of the year.”

Previously, Heavens worked as an assistant principal for four years at Centralia High School in Centralia, Ill. Heavens coached tennis, football and basketball in the past.

“Coaching and teaching allow me to [meet] different types of individuals from different demographics. Being able to effectively communicate, relate and talk to them has enhanced my ability to be an administrator and talk to different staff members and students; that has been my main lead-up to where I am now. Aspects of being able to teach and coach different types of kids made me hone my communication skills,” Heavens said.

Having coached various sports and having a senior kid, Heavens plans to attend sporting events and encourage students to achieve success beyond the academic level. 

“Some administrators hate being at sporting events, [but] I enjoy it. I enjoy the atmosphere of the community coming together. In my eyes, sports and the arts as well bring the community together to showcase kids’ talents that they may not be able to see in the classroom,” Heavens said. “Especially having a senior at home, I know sometimes school can get mundane for kids. Some kids look forward to those outside activities that showcase their talents, and I think it is important to showcase every talented kid and make sure students feel well-accomplished in all those aspects.”

Initially, Heavens applied with hopes of working closer to home, but through learning about the school’s philosophy of caring for and educating all students, Heavens was further inclined to accept the job.

“Hopefully, [I’ll be staying at West] long enough to make a difference. I know from an administrative mentor I had in the past [that] wherever you go, you want to make a positive change. So every place I’ve been, I’ve always tried to leave a long-lasting positive change,” Heavens said.

Heavens looks forward to participating in senior traditions like Mr. Longhorn, and he has plans to create new community-building traditions but does not wish to disclose them until March or April.

“With any administrative position, there are going to be challenges. My biggest challenge right now is getting to know the students that I have in a short amount of time. That’s my biggest thing, to make sure I can try to connect with each kid before they leave,” Heavens said. “I know it sounds crazy, but I enjoy school. I enjoy being educated. I enjoy the process of kids growing and reaching their goals and going to that next level. I do want to get in there and be a part of the culture and see what I can help bring to West.”