Photo of Dr. April HawkinsApril Hawkins

Passionate about making an impact on families, learning, educational leadership, sports, and life, Dr. April Hawkins is committed to growing life-long learners and leaders! Her mission is to provide a proactive, kind, encouraging, progressive-minded, and positive impact on learning in and beyond classroom walls. She fulfills this mission with a spirit of servanthood by empowering those around her in a transformational, collaborative, and participatory way. 


Hawkins first earned her Bachelor’s Degree from College of the Ozarks as a two-sport collegiate athlete while double majoring in Secondary Education and Physical Education and earning certification in science. After graduating, Hawkins put her love for student learning, sports, and leadership to use teaching middle and high school health and physical education in Forsyth along with assuming the role of varsity girls’ basketball, volleyball, and softball coach. In 1999, Hawkins was recognized as an Outstanding Beginning Teacher by the Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.


Recognizing the importance of life-long learning, Hawkins earned her Master of Science Degree in Secondary Educational Administration from Missouri State University with the Middle School Administration Endorsement. At the age of 24, Hawkins stepped into the role of principal/athletic director of Kirbyville Middle School. Hawkins experienced opening a new building, staffing and uniting a team of educational professionals, and creating a school culture with the slogan “Whatever It Takes.” She ensured learner and staff needs were met in order to guarantee a supportive, progressive, and proactive learning environment for all. Hawkins’ greatest accomplishment during her five years at Kirbyville was leading the team to achieve “Top Ten List for Highest Performing Small Schools” in Missouri based on cumulative MAP data. Hawkins continued to pour into young adults beyond the classroom as she coached peewee and junior high girls’ basketball and volleyball for Kirbyville. 


Still thirsting to learn and better herself as a school leader, Hawkins accepted a principal position at Nixa’s Inman Elementary and later helped transition the building to Inman Intermediate. During Hawkins’ 11-year stint at Nixa, she enjoyed working with learners and staff while overseeing the district’s K-6 gifted program. Hawkins earned her doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Soon after, Hawkins was drawn to further grow the profession and began working as an adjunct professor for Missouri State University, teaching a variety of Masters and Specialist courses in Education Administration for aspiring principals. One of Hawkins’ greatest achievements during her time in Nixa was leading the team to be recognized on the Top Ten List of “Highest Performing Large Schools” in Missouri based on cumulative years of MAP data. In 2006, Hawkins was honored as by the Southwest Missouri Counselor Association by being named Advocate Elementary Principal of the Year. In 2014, she was also named among the Dozen Under 40 in the Nixa Express.


Since 2016, Hawkins has been honored to serve the Branson community as principal of Buchanan Elementary (K-3). Hawkins’ greatest accomplishments at Buchanan include reestablishing strong school culture, transitioning the team through the Covid-19 pandemic, and actually leveraging Covid combined with Canvas implementation to create highly cohesive, collaborative learning teams. The combination of circumstances resulted in high levels of instructional fidelity, curricular transparency with parents, increased skills with electronic resources, calibration among grade-level teams, and overall, high levels of learner performance. Despite a loss of instructional time during Covid shutdowns and state MAP averages declining, Buchanan Elementary well exceeded performance measures and experienced the strongest growth in English Language Arts in school history. Currently, Hawkins serves as an adjunct professor for the Branson/Evangel University Cohort Masters Degree Program in Curriculum and Instruction. In 2022, Hawkins was recognized by the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals and named the Southwest Region Distinguished Principal for her outstanding leadership and performance.


Since achieving her doctorate, Hawkins has completed certifications in both Elementary Principalship and Superintendency and is a member of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Hawkins attributes much of her success to strong family support, as she has been married to her husband Jeff for 26 years. Together they have three children, Alli, Jake and Kamber are all recent graduates of the Branson High School.

Jared Howerton

Assistant Principal


Jared Howerton and Family

Mr. Jared Howerton has served as assistant principal at Buchanan Elementary since 2019. He spent 8 years in the classroom as a physical education teacher at Cedar Ridge Intermediate School in Branson, MO. Mr. Howerton has a Bachelor’s degree from College of the Ozarks. He received a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Lindenwood University. 


Mr. Howerton is a member of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals (MAESP), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).