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Your Neighbor: Meet Julie Heidtmann

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Julie Heidtmann enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “My older brother and I began taking piano at a young age. I was only 4 years old when my mother, who is an accomplished pianist, began to teach me. We also were taught how to play the violin. It was a very musical household,” recalls Heidtmann who practiced all through high school. Heidtmann from a young age admired her parents’ work ethic as teachers as well. “They were both passionate about what they did, and I myself knew by the seventh grade that I wanted to be a teacher too. I loved math. So, I knew without much doubt that would be the direction I would take,” remembers Heidtmann.

For college, Heidtmann was ready to trade colder winters for a warmer climate. “I always knew that I wanted to be in North or South Carolina because they had the best sweet tea,” laughs Heidtmann. “Since my father was a professor, he had thought Wake Forest University would be a good fit, especially with the smaller campus. Initially, I was thinking something larger like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The minute I stepped on Wake’s campus I knew that was it. I loved it,” says Heidtmann.

Heidtmann continued down the path of becoming a math teacher. “I received my undergraduate degree in math from Wake,” notes Heidtmann. “Also, towards the end of my time at Wake, I met my future husband, Henry. We started off as friends, but it quickly evolved into more.” Henry and Julie were engaged by her senior year of college. “Even though we were engaged after I graduated and planning to marry, I wanted to live on my own for a year just to prove that I could do it,” remembers Heidtmann. She had begun working for Lexington High School as a math teacher upon graduation. “I stayed there for about seven years,” mentions Heidtmann. “At that point, Henry and I had expanded our family and it didn’t make any financial sense to continue teaching when we were paying more in childcare then we were bringing in.” The Heidtmanns welcomed Henry IV in 1994, William in 1997, and Christina in 2001.

Heidtmann relishes her role as a mother and appreciated the time she got to see them grow up. She also honed her creative skills that were instilled in her as a young child. “When my kids were younger, I really reconnected with my love for crafting and creating things. It wasn’t just with wood, although, I do enjoy making signs, but also with paper, jewelry, rubber stamping, clay, you name it. Everyone who knows me well knows how much I love color, and there is so much possibility of using it with paper — the opportunity of creation is endless. I feel fortunate to have come from a long line of crafters,” explains Heidtmann.

Heidtmann decided to take her creativity back to the classroom when her youngest, Christina, was a junior kindergartner at Summit School. Heidtmann enjoyed teaching where her children were attending school, and also where Henry was working as well. “It has always been so special to me when a student comes back and tells you how much they appreciated what you taught them and the influence you had on their life,” says Heidtmann. The algebra teacher has more than 30 years teaching under her belt and works primarily with the seventh- and eighth-grade students at Summit School. “Of course, this year is much different than any other year, however, I’m amazed by the resilience of these kids since coming back. We are very lucky that we have small classroom sizes and the opportunity to safely spread out on campus and teach during COVID-19. You could see the gratitude and enthusiasm these students had when we came back. I wish I could actually see their faces, especially when they smile. But I truly see so much positive with what we’ve been able to do on our campus with the ability to give such individual attention. It’s been very inspiring as a teacher,” says Heidtmann.

Heidtmann has also chosen to focus on the opportunities she has from being forced to stick close to home due to COVID-19. “I have really embraced my crafting. I also enjoy growing container gardens with flowers,” notes Heidtmann. She has also made sure to celebrate the special moments in her family, including leaving the Christmas tree up a little longer this year. “We thought extending the Christmas joy this year couldn’t hurt. I’ve been collecting my ornaments that have so much meaning to me since I was 10 years old. Each year, the pleasure I get from unwrapping each ornament and always telling the story behind it is so meaningful. Christina, my daughter, loves taking part in that with me. All the kids help me decorate the tree and put the thousand-ish lights on it. It takes a full three days! After it’s all completed, the Christmas tree rotates on a base so that all of the ornaments get equal billing,” explains Heidtmann.

Heidtmann’s family has also enjoyed how she has shared her baking skills. “It’s something I have always enjoyed doing. As a kid, my mom was a fantastic cook, and I never enjoyed learning to do that quite like I did baking. My father had a sweet tooth, so I would always handle baking the dessert because it’s something that I found joy in doing,” remembers Heidtmann. “To this day, I still enjoy it, and love to bake many different things. My grandmother was a wonderful baker, and I probably got my love for it from her.”

Our neighbor has found that embracing what brings joy to her life, and inspiring others to find theirs, is truly worth discovering even when at initial glance things aren’t as they used to be.