McKay Is New Principal at Atlantic (Iowa) High
Being a part of an education system is something that comes naturally to 1992 Auburn High School graduate Heather Joy (Layson) McKay. McKay comes from a long line of teachers.
Her grandmother, Gladys Layson, along with numerous aunts and uncles, taught throughout the Midwest, as far back as her maternal great-great grandmother Elizabeth Hoppe and five of Elizabeth’s daughters in one-room schoolhouses around Stella/Shubert area.
However, McKay is the first in the history of her family who has decided to take it to the next level and become an instructional leader as a principal for Atlantic High School in Atlantic, Iowa for 2010-2011. The high school consists of 600-plus students, 50+ teachers and staff.
McKay grew up in Aurora, Colorado until her parents Dick Layson (Omaha) and Beth (Henderson) Haneline (Johnson) decided it was time to return to their hometown of Auburn. McKay remembers her time in southeast Nebraska fondly.
“I was so fortunate to have had quality teachers throughout my educational career. I am so thankful that I learned from amazing people like Carrie Allen, Jeff Falter, Chet DeVaughn, Kenneth Hutton, Mark Oliver, Phyllis Russ, Gail Searcey, along with employers Kathy and Gary Ensz, Kathy and Bill Bucy, and Steve and Leslie Justus. If it hadn’t been for caring adults outside of my family my travels could have gone down a much different path,” remembers McKay.
McKay continued to explain that children take away so much from the people who work in schools and who work with young people. “There are many occasions that I can recall where adults in my life helped instill in me what to truly value in life: education, family, friends and community,” said McKay.
Over the last 13 years, McKay has served as an English/Journalism teacher at Atlantic High School. She has also worked for an Atlantic photography studio, Fischer Photography. In 2001, McKay started her own digital media business, Gig Productions.
Earning a college education was a top priority and McKay chose Peru State College. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education/English in 1997. “Educators, like Dr. Sara Crook, Dr. Bill Clemente, Dr. McCann, Dr. Daryl Long, Barb Lewellen, and Dr. Joel Lundak, there also took an interest in my education,” added McKay.
McKay earned her Master’s Degree in Education Administration from Iowa State University in 2003. “I didn’t actively pursue an administrative position at this time because I had our first son (Zachary) at the middle of my program and our youngest son (Devin) at the end. My priority had to be our young family,” explained McKay.
Current Atlantic High School Principal Roger Herring announced in February that after 20 years as AHS’s principal it was time for him to move on. Herring has been another mentor in McKay’s life.
“There are so many positive characteristics that Mr. Herring possesses. One that I cherish most is that he really tries to do what is best for kids,” said McKay.
McKay indicated the reason she decided to try for this position is because the Atlantic District will be under new leadership with a new superintendent and there will also be a new assistant principal for the high school. “With so much turnover I feel that we needed a bridge and strong support for our faculty and staff. Apparently the selection committee agreed,” said McKay.
Education is a family affair for the McKays. McKay’s husband Paul is currently a sixth grade teacher at Atlantic Middle School and a 1995 PSC graduate.
“We don’t take the time to give credit where it’s due. I am forever grateful to the Auburn and Peru communities for helping to enlighten a path where I feel I can make a difference in the world of tomorrow. I do not take this path alone; so many people whom I have been gifted with knowing and learning from are constants in my heart and memories and I hope to help their legacies carry on,” added McKay.