Heidi L. Keegan
Peace River Elementary School
Charlotte County Public Schools
Port Charlotte, Florida
Before Heidi L. Keegan took leadership of Peace River Elementary (PRE), the small school had a reputation as a high-poverty institution plagued by adverse learning conditions and constant turnover. When the previous principal left, 21 teachers also left, leaving Keegan with the enormous tasks of rebuilding the school on a short timeline and reversing the stagnant trend of low performance. A monumental challenge for any educator, Keegan was uniquely qualified to tackle this task as a former PRE student who herself had lived through many of the challenging life circumstances currently faced by its students. Taking a collaborative approach, Keegan set out to improve learning outcomes for all students by making targeted use of Title I funds to expand staffing to support ELL students, students with disabilities, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This effort, along with a professional culture shift and the building of a multidisciplinary mental health team, have yielded impressive results. In 2020-2021, in spite of pandemic-related challenges, PRE made the greatest one-year academic gains in district history, including a 58-point increase from F to A in Math. Keegan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of West Florida and a Master of Education Leadership from the University of South Florida. She is currently a doctoral candidate for a Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction: Teachers, Schools, and Society at the University of Florida.