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Deborah T. Beard
Puckett Elementary School
Carlsbad Municipal Schools
Carlsbad, New Mexico

At Puckett Elementary School, Principal Deborah T. Beard has overcome great odds to create a safe and respectful environment that promotes student academic success and positive character development.  At the primarily Hispanic first through fifth grade school, challenges include language barriers and a high-poverty population of struggling families, incarcerated parents, and many children being raised by grandparents.  Beard began efforts to transform the school climate ten years ago by implementing the Character Counts education program, which rewards students with school-wide recognition and parent notices for positive behaviors.  Beard also worked with staff, parents, and the community to develop an anti-bullying program, which taps into partnerships and donations from local businesses and organizations.  Community members lend expertise for a Science Night, Career Day, and other events to engage students and help them begin thinking about the future.  Beard’s efforts to establish a climate that she describes as caring, inviting, safe, happy, and successful have also paid off in academic gains.  Through differentiated, interdisciplinary instruction and data-managing software programs, such as Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, and Compass Learning, both struggling and excelling students can grow through following individual instructional pathways.  Since the state began grading schools, Puckett has earned two “B” grades, and in 2012, it became the first “A” designated school in the community.  Beard holds an A.A. from New Mexico State University, a B.A. from College of the Southwest, and an M.A. from Eastern New Mexico University.