When Margie Buckley was still in high school, she had the chance to serve as an aide for students with special needs.
That led the Wabasso High School graduate to St. Cloud State University where she earned a degree in special education.
“My first job was in Lakefield,” said Buckley. “That was a wonderful experience, and I was sad to leave.”
Buckley ended up in Redwood Falls, and a fortunate series of events led to her spending the next 30-plus years working in the local school district.
“I started out working for Barb Johnson who was going on maternity leave,” said Buckley, adding she was lucky enough after that first year to spend the rest of her career filling a variety of roles.
What started in special education also included working with middle school students in reading, as well as her involvement in a program that helped dozens of students who may not have graduated from high school any other way.
Buckley helped develop the Redwood Valley Alternative Learning Program (ALP).
Buckley said she was approached by the school’s administration with the idea of developing an alternative program for those students who did not always fit in the traditional system.
“For the past 18 years I have been working with ALP,” said Buckley. “I still get to teach and enjoy the smaller classes of students. What we wanted to create was a place that felt more like home for the students.”
While educating the students was a priority, Buckley added there were times when students just needed someone to listen to them.
Buckley said her special education experience really helped in ALP, as every student who began the program had an individualized plan they needed to accomplish in order to earn their diploma.
Over the years Buckley said the community has been a great support for the ALP, whether it was businesses working with the students, the families or the community as a whole supporting the students and helping them to be successful.
Buckley said she got into teaching because she loved kids.
“My mom was a teacher,” Buckley said, adding she saw how much of a difference a teacher could make in the lives of kids.
The 200 students who have been able to walk away from the ALP with a diploma are evidence educators like Buckley made a difference.
Yet, Buckley is the first to admit the program has been a success because of all of the people who have been involved.
“I have been lucky to work with great staff over the years,” said Buckley. “The support of the administration has been wonderful.”
Page 2 of 2 - Buckley, who is not officially retiring until the summer school portion of the program ends, which is in June, said it is those summer school times when students are able to get out of the classroom and see the wealth of resources this region has to offer them she had enjoyed most.
Buckley said she has also found it very rewarding to see students who have graduated from the ALP experiencing success, and every once in a while one of them comes back and encourages other students to keep working.
Buckley said she has enjoyed her career and said the decision to retire has been hard. How-ever, Buckley plans to stay busy doing everything from traveling to working with flowers at the family’s nursery.
“Change can be hard,” said Buckley, “but I am really looking forward to a new chapter.”