Ms. Nicole McDermott


2022-23 is Ms. McDermott’s 19th year at Pinecrest School and 18th leading our school community!


Nicole McDermott grew up in a small town forty minutes south of Boston, Massachusetts, and that’s the area where her parents and most of her family remain.  She is Auntie Nicki to Ruby and Claire (ages 18 and 16) who live in Wisconsin, three godchildren (twins Riley and Luke, age 14, and their 9-year-old sibling, Murphy) who live nearby in Fairfax County (and are former Pinecrest Pavilion campers), and a handful of other children whose parents are her closest friends.


Ms. McDermott graduated from George Mason University in May 2015 with her M.Ed. – a master’s degree in education leadership.  At graduation, she was the sole student recognized with the College of Education and Human Development Graduate School of Education academic award for the education leadership program.  She earned certificates in Positive Leadership in 2017 and Leadership Coaching/Organizational Well-being in 2022, both through George Mason University. Following the successful completion of the accredited coaching program coursework and outside of Pinecrest, Ms. McDermott is currently working on achieving the ACC distinction from the International Coaching Federation. Her B.S. degree is from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2001 as an elementary education major and an English/journalism minor. Including her college student teaching at The Pennfield School in Rhode Island, all of Ms. McDermott’s professional teaching experience has been in quality independent or private schools.


She taught kindergarten in Massachusetts, and after relocating to Northern Virginia in 2002, worked for two years at the former Fairfax Brewster School in Bailey’s Crossroads, teaching second grade and then serving as Assistant Head of School.  Ms. McDermott came to Pinecrest for the 2004-05 school year as the third grade teacher.  That third grade class (Pinecrest’s Class of 2007) was a dynamic group of children and parents; their warm embrace made her sure that she chose well with Pinecrest.


In June 2005, Ms. McDermott became Pinecrest’s sixth Head of School. She’s very proud of the many ways Pinecrest has grown and changed during her leadership – achieving accreditation for the first time in 2008 (and subsequent very successful re-accreditations in 2013 and 2018), launching a summer camp and later winter and spring camps/care, creating after-school activity options, improving school culture with mindfulness, redesigning enrichment classes to include STEAM and increased PE, Growing Our School and opening our new lower school building in December 2017, and safely and successfully offering in-person learning five days during a global pandemic beginning on August 25, 2020 (from this date until the county Health Department ended contract tracing in February 2022, the school experienced only two COVID-19 cases with no transmission). Pinecrest School has been recognized with many honors during Ms. McDermott’s tenure – including Best STEM Program and Best Private Elementary School by Family Magazine and, for the sixth consecutive year, Best Summer Camp by Northern Virginia Magazine. (Read more of our public recognition and honors here.) During many of her Head years, Ms. McDermott has also taught in some capacity (including library for both preschool and K-6, camp classes, and co-teaching fourth and sixth grade – with our Class of 2009, Pinecrest’s first sixth grade class!).  She has advised our K-Kids Club since its inception. (K-Kids is currently on hold during the pandemic.)


In high school, Ms. McDermott began her life-changing affiliation with Kiwanis International – “a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time.”  It is the parent organization of many student-led, youth organizations, including Key Club in high schools and Circle K in colleges.  Ms. McDermott was a member of both, serving her communities and leading in various roles throughout high school and college.  After college, she joined Kiwanis and has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Tysons since 2002.  She currently serves as president of the Kiwanis Club of Tysons Foundation, which is the 501 (c) (3) arm of the club. One of the best parts of her Kiwanis experience has been the opportunity to mentor and work with young leaders.  Ms. McDermott has 10+ years of experience working with high school student leaders at the club, district, and international levels of Key Club, both in Capital (Virginia, D.C., Maryland and Delaware) and New England. In the Capital District, she directly oversees all logistics and programming for the Capital District Key Club leadership conference, an annual event attended by 1000+ students and adults and supports young adults serving in leadership positions on the district level. Additionally, from 2008-2012, Ms. McDermott managed the Capital District’s values-centered, leadership development weekends for high school students.  During this time, Ms. McDermott was responsible for seven Kiwanis Key Leader weekend events that served 521 high school students from three states and the District of Columbia. It is one of her proudest accomplishments to have helped so many young adults grow, believe in themselves, and connect to their values through this program.  Bringing K-Kids, Kiwanis’ branch for elementary students, to Pinecrest in 2010-11 for second through sixth graders was the icing on the cake of her Kiwanis Family experience and has provided continued opportunities to mentor young leaders.  Over the years, Ms. McDermott has been recognized with many different honors at all levels of the Kiwanis organization (including the prestigious Key Club International President’s Award in 2014), and she was incredibly honored to give the keynote speech to 900+ high school students and their advisors at the 2017 New England District Key Club Educational Conference.  In 2018, the Pinecrest School K-Kids Club was asked by Kiwanis International to pilot a new program and was then featured afterwards in video and print.  Kiwanis Magazine highlighted Ms. McDermott and her work at Pinecrest during the pandemic in 2021 here.


In addition to volunteering through Kiwanis, Ms. McDermott spends her spare time reading, relaxing, walking, writing, baking, traveling (when it’s not a global pandemic), staying connected with people she loves, and supporting causes that are important to her (particularly Camp Sunshine, a retreat on Sebago Lake in Maine for critically-ill children and their families, where she volunteered for a week each summer from 2009 until 2019).  Ms. McDermott loves all things related to New England, Oprah Winfrey, the color pink, kayaking, and leadership, and she’s inspired by Marianne Williamson, Tony Robbins, Anna Quindlen, and most notably Dr. Brené Brown (and was so proud to be a student in her classroom – literally! – in 2019 as part of the inaugural team of Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitators; now, Ms. McDermott shares the  Dare to Lead™ work with other schools and non-profits looking to build courage, increase empathy, and more through her company, Quality Matters).  During the 2021-22 school year, Ms. McDermott facilitated the full Dare to Lead™ curriculum with the teachers and administrative staff. Ms. McDermott meditates every day (she celebrated 1800 consecutive days of meditation in May 2022!) and she believes we can all do hard things.  (The first WE CAN DO HARD THINGS wooden sign was hung in the upper building hallway in 2015 followed by a second one in the lower school building when it opened in 2017.) Ms. McDermott considers herself an emergent runner, has a blog, and is a regular blood donor (O+).  She wants to write a book someday.


At the top of Ms. McDermott’s core values list are quality, community and connection, efficiency, choosing courage over comfort, giving her best at all times, making a difference, caring for our earth, and continuing to grow into a better version of herself.  She has always felt that teaching is much more of a vocation rather than her occupation.