Heather Preston believes in combining the old and the new at her new leadership role as the principal at Desert Vista Elementary School, 3701 E. Broadway Ave. in Apache Junction. Preston replaces former principal Pat Smith who accepted the position of student wellness director with Apache Junction Unified School District.
Although Preston said she is excited about taking on the challenge of being the new principal at the “Home of the Mustangs,” this is not her first rodeo. She brings years of experience as a teacher, librarian, administrator, dean of students, assistant principal and principal to her position.
While her varied expertise in various roles in the East Valley, Phoenix and Texas has provided a wide work landscape for innovative ideas, she said her first priority is to provide a leadership transition that minimizes disruption and maintains DVES’ rich traditions.
“I love the small town, family feel of Desert Vista Elementary,” said Preston. “Everyone that I have met at Apache Junction has made me feel right at home. I have talked to many parents who attended Desert Vista as students themselves. This demonstrates how much trust the community has I the teachers and staff of the school.”
Prior to joining AJUSD, Preston was an administrator in the Gilbert School District from 2015 to 2022. While she brings a wealth of knowledge with her, she also understands the importance of listening, collaborating and inspiring.
“In the next few weeks I hope to spend lots of time at campus, listen to understand the climate and culture at DVES, begin to develop trusting, mutually beneficial relationships with all stakeholders, and ignite the teachers, families, and the community toward the common purpose of ensuring success for all learners,” said Preston. ”I want students to know that there are many adults here to lift them up and that we believe in them.”
As a parent and even a young grandmother of a 3-year-old granddaughter, Preston values the role of education.
“The two biggest influences in a child’s life are home and school so we must work together toward common goals,” said Preston. “Parents, teachers and administrators are all part of a team that supports each child to achieve excellence.”
Preston lives in Mesa with her husband, and two rescue dogs, Sophie and Maisie. She has two grown children — Ryan, 28, who is a welder, and 22-year-old Phoebe, who works in community management. Music plays a big part in the Preston household and the family enjoys attending concerts and listening to live music. While her husband, son and daughter can play instruments, Preston admits she has only been able to master the kazoo. However, her talents lie elsewhere. Her hobbies include crafting and reading.
One of Preston’s most unique experiences took place in the AJUSD area. She volunteered weekends in the role of peasant at the Arizona Renaissance Festival for five seasons. While Preston is getting comfortable with her new role, students, faculty and parents have greeted her with a hearty “huzzah” to welcome her to her new home at DVES.
Desert Vista is a Be Kind school where each day students and staff practice the 10 tenets that make a difference in the lives of others. Each day DVES students proudly share how they actively demonstrate their kindness to others by being respectful, being compassionate, or simply by being a friend.
Registration is currently underway for all Apache Junction Unified School District schools. For more information visit ajusd.org.