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Reflections on Mrs. Headley’s Calling and Career at Morning Star Academy        

Rev. Kendra Thompson

The first time I met Cheryl Headley, she was in costume. Students at Morning Star Academy were encouraged to come to school dressed like their heroes. Mrs. Headley wore a civil war era dress with a giant hoop skirt that flowed to the floor. She was Clara Barton, nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. When I reminded Cheryl of that day, she laughed and smiled with her whole face, the way she’s prone to do. “That’s not even my best costume,” she shared. She showed me pictures of herself dressed as Glinda the Good Witch. She went on to describe her Mrs. Pevensie costume from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series, complete with a NARNIA stamped suitcase.

Our conversation about costumes was full of winsome joy and imagination. As far as I can tell, Morning Star Academy’s beginning has a similar spirit. Five pastors came together because they wanted a non-denominational Christian school in the Quad Cities where they could educate children to think for themselves. At that time, Cheryl was a young mom concerned about raising her children in a godly way. She heard about the meetings for this dream school, and showed up.

“I’ve learned,” Cheryl said to me, “that when you find out about something new and start going to the meetings, you wind up with a job.” That’s exactly what happened to Cheryl. She went from interested parent to Founding Board Member!

For several years, Bettendorf Christian Church and Morning Star Academy shared the building we occupy now. In the early days, it was a preschool with thirty-one students. Every Sunday night Cheryl and her husband, (both members of Bettendorf Christian), would re-arrange the Sunday school classrooms to get ready for the school week. The school continued to grow, adding a grade each year. She remembers vividly one Sunday her pastor, Karl Roberts saying to her, “What are you going to do now that your children are in school all day?” She was taken aback by such a forward question. She figured she’d have plenty to do. But as she went to God in prayer, she felt a clear call on her heart to become the Administrator at Morning Star Academy.

As Cheryl Headley heeded God’s call, over the years she progressed from concerned parent, founding board member, administrator, and finally to her most recent position as head of lower school. Cheryl is more than an administrative leader. Her enthusiasm and convictions about this educational model, paired with her heart for captivating children’s imagination, punctuate her history with the school, making this more than a “job” for her.

After twenty-five years on staff, Mrs. Headley is retiring. “What do you hope for the future of Morning Star?” I asked her, as I scribbled down her thoughts as quickly as she said them. The phrase she highlighted was character development. The trivium of classical education lifts up truth, goodness, and beauty. Cheryl emphasized the importance of that imagination being stirred up in children. “Whatever your hand finds to do,” the writer of Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “do it for the glory of God.” That is Cheryl’s hope. Whether it’s building tractors or preaching the gospel, opportunities to lift up the beauty of God’s creation and use our lives to connect with God’s greater story abound everywhere. 

As for Cheryl, she’s not entirely sure what retirement holds for her. A move closer to family in Missouri is beckoning. I encouraged her that whatever she does, I hoped she would still have opportunities to showcase her fabulous costumes.

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