Dr. Paula Vincent helps to educate 140,300 Iowa students each year. As the chief administrative officer of the Heartland Area Education Agency, headquartered in Des Moines, Vincent works with 53 school districts in the center of the state. The Heartland AEA is Iowa’s largest education agency.
Vincent earned both her MA in special education in 1983 and her PhD in educational leadership in 1994 at the University of Iowa.
“My experience at the University of Iowa College of Education was the perfect combination of practical exposure in the field, but also technical education,” says Vincent. “I will be forever appreciative of the professors that worked with me.”
Before she took her position at the Heartland AEA in 2010, Vincent was superintendent of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District. She has also worked in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency located in Cedar Rapids, and as a classroom teacher.
One former colleague, now UI professor, Ron Fielder, described Vincent as both a “pioneer in special education techniques” and an “innovator in student achievement.”
While serving as director of special education at the Grant Wood AEA, Vincent helped create the Vital Program. The program, in partnership with Kirkwood Community College, provided students with disabilities the opportunity to continue their educations in a college setting.
“I can’t imagine how many dozens of students have furthered their education and achieved their life dreams because of that project,” she says. “That is a longstanding career highlight for me.”
Now, Vincent’s work focuses on providing a quality education to students in the heartland of Iowa. She is working to create tight alignments with the school districts in the area to expand options for student success. “We want to provide an equity of services,” she says. “No matter where a student lives, they should have access to a high-quality education.”
Dr. Brad Buck, director of the Iowa Department of Education has worked with Vincent throughout his career.
“Aside from all of her accomplishments in education, it is worth noting that Dr. Vincent has been a visible role model for females with a desire to move into CEO-level leadership positions in education organizations,” Buck says. “That is a value to the state.”