Betty Lockhart never had plans to be a principal.
Still, it wasn't something she just fell into. It was a career that God led her into one step at a time, she said.
Lockhart, who has worked at Christian Heritage School since it was founded almost 20 years ago, is retiring this year.
She was the school's first full-time principal, and, more recently, its assistant principal. She has seen the school grow from a dozen elementary students to a full elementary, junior high and high school with its own building.
She said she wanted to retire quietly -- she has been trying to step away from her duties for the past few years -- but her colleagues wouldn't let that happen. A retirement party is planned for this winter, probably during a holiday when alumni might be home.
At each step along her career in education, Lockhart said she started to feel content -- like she could do that job for the next 10 years. Then, God would open up the door to something else.
When she looks back, she can see how each piece fits together, but at the time, she had no idea where it was going.
For instance, in 1991, she took time off from teaching at Christian Heritage School so that she and her husband, Ty, could take their children to Australia and New Zealand.
"I said, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do when I get back,'" she said, laughing. "Famous last words ... When I got back, they said, 'We want you to be principal.'"
It's a career she never imagined for herself.
"I'm the kid back in third grade, when they gave us homework over the weekend, that was just totally miffed," Lockhart said.
And yet, it's a career that fits her well.
"Oh, I think I was made for it," she said. "I think somehow I'm a born leader. There's just something that's in me that leads. ... I love kids, and I love people. It's just the way the Lord created me."
She feels lucky to have that purpose, because she knows people who search their entire lives for one.
"She's been, pretty much, the lifeblood of the school ever since I've been here," teacher Brian Houston said. Houston has been with the school for 13 years and has seen it change dramatically during that time.
"What I really admire about her is the faith that she has to be able to see what we can be, not just what we are," Houston said.
Lockhart has a heart for students and Christian education and incredible grace evidenced by her belief in people, giving them second and third chances, he said.
Kathy Kiely, the school's secretary for seven years, called Lockhart a "prayer warrior" for the school because she prays for students, their families and staff members.
Besides setting and achieving goals for the school, Lockhart also has taken on any odd jobs that need to be done, such as serving lunch, teaching, making copies, cleaning, watering the grass and pulling weeds.
"She would just step in, in every area you could imagine, which was awesome," Kiely said.
As Christian Heritage School grew from 12 students in the first through fifth grades to a full K-12 school, Lockhart had plenty to worry about, such as how to make room for the growing school. And, at times, she worried.
But God always came through -- sometimes at the last minute.
"He's an 11th-hour God, which sometimes would drive me a little crazy," Lockhart said.
Take, for instance, when the school was renting space in the old Steamboat Springs junior high school and needed to expand into other classrooms. With the details of the lease agreed upon, Lockhart left for vacation. But, another offer to rent the space came in, and suddenly, nothing was definite for the school.
Christian Heritage School ultimately did get the extra rooms, but officials did not know until the Friday before school began. The start of school was delayed by a day, and volunteers showed up by the dozens to get the new space in shape for students.
That experience prepared Lockhart for the school's next step -- constructing a new building. The 40,000-square-foot building was framed in one day with the help of 200 volunteers.
Lockhart also attributes her success at the school to her husband, who provided not only emotional support, but also incredible business knowledge. Ty Lockhart was the developer of the land where the school now sits, donating the land and overseeing construction.
"I kept thinking, 'It has been such an adventure,'" Lockhart said.
"People say, 'Aren't you proud?' and I think, 'Yes, I'm pleased, but frankly, I've been hanging onto the Lord's coattails for dear life.'"
In retirement, she plans to travel and enjoy tennis and skiing but will stay involved with the school. That way, she won't miss the people -- the students, families and staff -- that make the job so fun.
"I do want to thank the families who have had the courage and made the sacrifice to send their children to the school over the years," she said. "Christian education is just a whole worldview and a whole philosophy and a whole way of looking at life."