Educational Directions: Team Member

Nicole McDermott


Head of School Search, Senior Administrator Search,

Organizational Development, Governance, Executive Coaching

Nicole McDermott (she/her) is an independent school leader, educator, facilitator, and certified leadership coach with 20+ years of experience. She values choosing courage over comfort, leading with transparency and vulnerability, building a nurturing community and connection, attending to the details, and showing up with curiosity. For eighteen years, she led an award-winning Northern Virginia independent school (2005 - 2023) and now brings this experience and her values and skills to Educational Directions to meet schools where they are, assisting and empowering them to reach their next level.

Nicole’s professional areas of expertise include maintaining integrity while leading through change, building community within organizations and trust within teams, working through conflict between stakeholders, shifting climate and culture, coaching and staying curious, mentoring young adults, and educating the whole child. During her headship of a small school, she did everything from open a new building and manage a large-scale construction project, achieve accreditation status, expand the school’s grade and extended care offerings, and navigate a global pandemic (plus maintain the enrollment growth that unexpectedly came with it) to read to preschoolers and kindergartners, run drop-off and dismissal each day, and advise the school’s Kiwanis K-Kids community service and leadership development club for second through sixth graders. Before becoming a school leader, she taught kindergarten, second grade, and third grade in independent and private school settings.

Nicole holds a B.S. in elementary education from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and a M.Ed. in education leadership from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Nicole was selected via an application process to be part of the inaugural (and, to date, only) cohort of Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitators in 2019, which included being trained directly by Brené Brown to facilitate curriculum based on her work, research, and best-selling book. Nicole integrated this work into the independent school she led for eighteen years with the administrative team, faculty, students, and families. Nicole is also a certified leadership / executive coach after being trained at the Center for the Advancement of Well-being at George Mason University; she is an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional at the ACC level. Additionally, Nicole is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, trained to help individuals and teams grow from and set goals around their CliftonStrengths assessments, as well as a Certified Practitioner of the EQ-i 2.0 + EQ 360 emotional intelligence assessment tools. Through her company, Quality Matters, Nicole co-creates brave spaces with schools, boards, non-profits, organizations, and leaders in group or 1:1 settings to encourage professional and personal growth through coaching, consulting, facilitating, building courage through Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ curriculum, and training on a variety of topics.

A longtime member of Kiwanis International (beginning first with Key Club in high school), Nicole is a volunteer in her community and has worked with and managed volunteer teams delivering leadership content to teenagers. She is directly responsible for the logistics of an annual educational conference serving thousands of high school students and their faculty advisors.

Nicole meditates and practices mindfulness every day, considers herself an emergent runner, donates blood regularly (O+), and listens to podcasts at 2x speed. In addition to volunteering through Kiwanis, she spends her free time reading, walking, writing, traveling, being near the water whenever possible, seeing musicals, following The Eras Tour, staying connected with people she loves, and supporting causes that are important to her.

While Nicole grew up in Massachusetts, she has lived outside of Washington D.C., in Northern Virginia, for more than 20 years. With gratitude, respect, and awareness, Nicole acknowledges that she currently lives on the land of the Piscataway people. She is committed to showing up as a learner and listener in the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging space and to standing against racism, hate, and injustice.
Nicole McDermott: Profile Large Image