An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

Our Team

As college counselors, we have a unique opportunity to help students on their journey of self-discovery and pride ourselves on our welcoming and inclusive approach to college counseling. Being able to help demystify the college admission process and to form close relationships with students and parents is what keeps us so enthusiastic about the work that we do.

Our greatest rewards are in watching students gain self-awareness and confidence and grow in their generosity of spirit and servant-leadership. We know that Potomac has prepared them well to excel as scholars and community members who value lifelong learning and derive pleasure from giving back and creating community.

Heather Baker Deardorff, Director of College Counseling

Heather joined the Potomac School in 2017 as the director of college counseling, where she is a member of the administrative team, the curriculum committee, and the AP Task Force, which recently made the decision to move beyond the AP curriculum. Prior to Potomac, Heather spent nine years at St. Paul’s School, in Concord, NH, where she served as associate director of college advising, head varsity softball coach, and director of a 30-girl dormitory. Over her 25-plus year career, she has worked on both sides of the proverbial desk: serving as an admission officer at both Gettysburg and Dickinson Colleges, and for several years as a public school counselor. Recently, Heather completed the college admission hat trick, having successfully navigated the college process as a parent.

During her time in New England, Heather served as a faculty member for the Summer Institute and as an Assembly Delegate for the New England regional ACAC. She recently presented at the Potomac and Chesapeake (PCACAC) Summer Institute, a training for new college counselors and admission officers. Heather is currently a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Potomac & Chesapeake Association of College Admission Counseling (PCACAC), the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS), and the Washington Area Independent School Counselors group.

Heather graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and earned an M.S. in counseling from the University of Vermont. A two-sport athlete at F&M, Heather was an accomplished softball player. Heather is married and has two grown children.

Barbara Hancock, Associate Director of College Counseling

Barbara began her career in education by teaching high school English at The Madeira School. In 2008, she transitioned from teaching to college counseling and joined Marks Education, an independent counseling firm. In addition to advising high school students and their families, Barbara ran the firm’s transfer admission counseling practice and provided pro bono college counseling to the affiliated non-profit organization, Collegiate Directions, Inc.

From 2011 through 2014, Barbara served as director of college counseling at Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, where she was also the yearbook faculty advisor and a member of the Upper School administrative team. She joined the Potomac community in August 2014.

Active in various community and professional associations, Barbara has been a two-time chair of the Potomac & Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling’s (PCACAC’s) Summer Institute and a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops. She is passionate about college access, as well as providing professional development opportunities for counselors in underserved communities. 

A native of the DC area, Barbara graduated from National Cathedral School and earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia. She returned to the DMV after college, earning her M.A. from Georgetown University. In her free time, Barbara and her husband, William, stay busy with their two amazing daughters. Barbara also enjoys taking barre classes, playing tennis, trying out new recipes, watching college football, and having board game nights.

Christopher A. Zissi, Associate Director of College Counseling

Christopher A. Zissi attended and graduated from The University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor's degree in History in 2005. Upon completion of his undergraduate program, Christopher worked in college admissions in the Boston area, first at Boston University and then at Emerson College. In 2011, Christopher received his Master of Education degree in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University. After one too many New England winters, Christopher decided to move to Washington, DC, and began working in the undergraduate admission office at American University, where he worked for nearly four years, recruiting and guiding parents and students from around the world through the admission process. 

Christopher joined The Potomac School in the fall of 2015. He handles all aspects of college counseling while also serving as an academic advisor. Christopher currently serves on the Ithaca College Advisory Board and is a member of NACAC, PCACAC, and ACCIS. 

Karen Lawrence Djorup, College Counseling and Testing Coordinator


Karen has been working in the College Counseling office at The Potomac School since 2005. Prior to Potomac, she worked for a global Fortune 500 company in the organizational development field and managed its executive leadership and development training programs. Karen earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and spent her junior year in England where she took courses at the University of Reading and Oxford University. She played college level field hockey (Captain of team) and lacrosse. Karen obtained her Master’s of Science Degree in applied behavioral science from The Johns Hopkins University.

During her time at Potomac, she has coached field hockey and lacrosse; raised five children (one Potomac graduate and two who are currently enrolled in the Upper School); and, among other things, scheduled hundreds of college representative visits, administered thousands of AP exams, and provided invaluable support and assistance to the entire College Counseling Office. Karen gets a lot of satisfaction exploring, learning, and engaging in all the nuances of college counseling work. She enjoys helping students and parents navigate the myriad details and ever changing college admission requirements.