WELCOME TO THE BURNETT: New Monto State School principal Karen Buckley (middle back) with her Year 3/4 class.
WELCOME TO THE BURNETT: New Monto State School principal Karen Buckley (middle back) with her Year 3/4 class.

‘Michelin Man’ has the right moves: Meet new principal

NEW Monto State School principal Karen Buckley used to refer to herself as the Michelin Man.

Why? Because when she was teaching at a school in London, where many students were known gang members, she had to teach while wearing protective equipment.

She even had to pass through metal detectors and police guards just to get to work.

“It was full on, pretty cool,” Mrs Buckley said.

That’s not the only fun fact about Mrs Buckley: she and her husband are competitive ballroom dancers and were once ranked in the top 30 dancers in the world.

They beat a field of dancers in the 2016 Riviera International Dance Festival’s senior ballroom competition in Torquay, England, to cement their reputation.

Mrs Buckley has been an educator for more than 30 years and in this time has also taught at a Jewish school in London, in the Torres Strait Islands and more recently at Cherbourg, and Wilsonton in Toowoomba.

Mrs Buckley is more than aware of the difficulties continued dry conditions have brought to the North Burnett.

She and her husband Shane walked off their farm near Oakey in 2001 due to drought.

Mr Buckley still lives in Toowoomba while looking for work.

“With the drought the way it is, he’s a farmer, there’s probably not a lot of work in that space at this point in time, so we share the travel,” Mrs Buckley said.

Another thing they share is the custody of their dogs, Hugo and Zorro, one a Lhasa apso and the other a Maltese shih tzu.

“They are the love of my life,” Mrs Buckley said.

“Every (student) has met them.

“I bring them in for a bit of a play — the kids quite like it.

“They say, ‘Is it your custody week?’ as a bit of a joke.”

Mrs Buckley said she took on the role at Monto because, as it was a smaller school, it would allow her to get back into the classroom for some hands-on teaching.

“When you work in big schools (in) principal or deputy roles, you don’t actually have that hands-on, and I really wanted to go back to the classroom a bit, so this ticked all the boxes,” she said.

While she has a science and mathematics background, Mrs Buckley said next year there would be a “strong focus” on the early years, so she would work in more of a support role with those younger classes.

Mrs Buckley is the third principal Monto State School has had this year, which Mrs Buckley said was the “biggest challenge” the school had faced.

“That always impacts on curriculum advancement and student learning in the sense that you can’t take on the current trends and changes, you can’t long-term invest yourself into a school if you are only here for a term or a year,” she said.

“The benefits of having a permanent principal back in the school that’s here for the long-term is that you can invest yourself into that space.

“The school reflects who you are because you’re there for a while.

“The benefits are more stability and teachers being able to grow as individuals and as a collective.”

Mrs Buckley praised the team she had inherited.

“The staff here are possibly the best teaching staff I’ve worked with,” she said.

“They are very in tune with the kids and the community, incredibly intelligent, they have a vision that they would like to see for Monto and my role really is to assist them with creating that vision.

“They are truly a very, very good team. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.”


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