Heather Buckley

Cardinal Elementary School
Cardinal Community School District
Eldon, Iowa

When she assumed the principalship at Cardinal Elementary School in rural, southeastern Iowa in 2014, the school had just been identified by the state as “school in need of assistance” due to low proficiencies. Buckley immediately set out to lead an evaluation of current practices and develop a five-year strategic plan to improve literacy at the school, outlining core curriculum and standards, assessment tools and practices, and methods for data analysis and intervention. This comprehensive plan was implemented with the support of specialized professional development and expanded classroom support through a tutoring partnership with AmeriCorps and a summer school program to address “summer slide” in grades 1-3. By 2018, the school ranked 8th in the state for academic growth earning a “commendable” state report card, which improved to “high performing” in 2019 and 2020. Buckley has also overseen significant improvement in behavioral trends at the school by augmenting the school’s PBIS practices with social and emotional learning lessons through class meetings and classroom breakfast time, which allows teachers an opportunity to identify gaps in daily necessities for Cardinal students, many of whom experience poverty. Buckley holds a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Mary and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa College of Education, where she also earned licenses in PK-12 Principalship and Special Education and Evaluation.