Students at Clear Creek Elementary School in Clear Lake may be confronted with a multitude of assignments throughout the year, but Principal Michael Barkley has one primary assignment for himself each and every school year.
He wants to make an impression a student can never forget.
“I told the kids and the staff when I started here that I couldn’t tell you who my elementary principal was; I don’t remember his name,” Barkley explains. “I don’t want any kid to go through school without knowing who I am and remembering some part of me for having been a part of their life. That’s kind of been my mission since I started here.”
An Iowa native and 1976 graduate of Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Barkley will be starting his 20th year as principal at Clear Creek next fall. In all those years, nothing he has done at the school has been as important to him as cultivating that personal relationship with students.
“I greet every kid at the door every day when they come in from the buses or from parent drop-off,” he says. “I’m standing at that door every single day. And I’ll be in the lunchroom every day chatting with them. When school lets out in the afternoon, I’m there at the door again wishing them a good night.”
While school administrators are often tethered to their desks out of necessity, Barkley works hard to be approachable — and that includes both students and parents.
“My door is always open,” he says. “Parents can always come in and talk to me.”
Barkley’s route to Clear Lake took him first to the Lone Star State. He worked two years as a substitute teacher in Des Moines after earning his undergraduate degree from Wartburg College before heading south.
In Texas, he taught, third, fourth and fifth grades and then served as an assistant principal, principal and finally director of elementary education at the Galena Park School District before he and his wife, Karen, decided to move their young family back to Iowa.
He can’t imagine having found a better place to make his career than here in Clear Lake.
“We have great kids, we have a great staff, a great community, and when you put that all together, it’s just a great place to work,” he concludes.