Watkins to lead Aldo Leopold

April 01, 2024

Effective July 1, Sara Watkins will become the principal of Aldo Leopold Intermediate School.

Watkins is in her second year as the school’s assistant principal and has been working in education for 20 years.

“Sara is a tremendous leader,” Superintendent Robert Scott said. “She has been a proven advocate for all students and has demonstrated great ability to build relationships with students and staff at Aldo.”

Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins

“Education is my jam. I’m a lifer,” Watkins said. “I love kids, and it’s funny how your journey kind of changes as you teach.”

Watkins earned her bachelor of science degree in Early Childhood Education and her reading endorsement from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, in 2003 and went on to teach second grade in New Sharon, Iowa, before her husband’s career as a college basketball coach took her out of state to a private school in California. In 2006, the couple moved again, this time to New Orleans, one year after Hurricane Katrina had left the area devastated, destroying 100 of the city’s 128 public school buildings and displacing between 100,000 and 200,000 students along the Gulf Coast.

“The majority of schools had been taken over and re-opened as charters,” Watkins recalled.

She taught first-graders at Lafayette Academy, a charter school in its first year of operation, located near the Ninth Ward. For the first two months, the school didn’t even have a copier, let alone a curriculum.

“It was definitely an experience that I will never forget,” Watkins said. “I think about those kids often, honestly, because it was just such a trying time for that community and those kids.”

She went on to teach first and second grades in North and South Carolina before returning to Iowa in 2010, when she taught fourth grade in Ottumwa. The following year, she took a position teaching third grade in West Burlington.

She earned her Master’s of Education from Sioux City’s Morningside College in 2015, and in 2018 became a 6-12 instructional coach. She went on to earn her Principal/Supervisor of Special Education license in 2021 from Viterbo University and joined BCSD in 2022 as the assistant principal of Aldo.

Watkins said that early in her career, she had never envisioned herself in an administrative role, but that changed as she began to realize the impact she could have.

“When you’re a teacher, you impact your classroom,” she said. “When you’re an instructional coach, you impact teachers, but then when you’re an administrator, you can impact so many people on different levels, so that’s what it was for me.”

Watkins credited her predecessors, Tim Cradic, who now is principal of Grimes Elementary School, and Principal Vida Long for the work they have done at Aldo, and she looks forward to continuing that work “in the trenches with my teachers … to continue to do what’s best for kids.”

Long has accepted a district-level position overseeing technology and food services. She believes Watkins will do well as Aldo’s principal.

“I’m thrilled that Sara is able to move into the head principal position,” Long said. “She is a dedicated person to both teachers and students. She is a hard worker, she loves what she does, and she loves this age group. I know that she is going to do a fantastic job.”