Monday, April 1, 2013

Principals of the Year named for 2013

Leaders at Ridgecrest Elementary and Spring Woods Middle School were recently named by their peers as Spring Branch ISD’s 2013 Elementary and Secondary Principals of the Year.

Ridgecrest Elementary School Principal Trish Thomas and Spring Woods Middle School Principal Karen Liska won this year’s honors in the district’s eighth annual recognition of campus leaders. In 2011, Principal Liska was named Elementary Principal of the Year.

Nominated and selected by their peers, Principals of the Year must meet these criteria:
  • Concern for all staff and students and their ability to inspire both of these groups
  • Ability and willingness to work cooperatively with all staff and administrators
  • Proven drive to initiate and implement effective strategies supporting continuous improvement in student performance
  • Ability to work with diverse community groups and all district stakeholders
  • Proven desire for continuous personal professional growth
  • Ability and willingness to make meaningful contributions to education
Principal Thomas has been the school leader at Ridgecrest Elementary, 2015 Ridgecrest, since 2006. A Houston native who graduated from Bellaire High School, she worked in banking before going into the education field. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, and was later awarded a master’s degree in bilingual education from Houston Baptist University.

She completed principal certification in May 2004 at the University of Houston. Principal Thomas currently is enrolled in the REEP (Rice Educational Entrepreneurship Program) Business Fellowship Program for School Leaders.

For 10 years, Thomas taught first grade in a bilingual classroom in Houston ISD, ran a student computer lab, and had administrative duties when the principal was off campus. She was the school instructional coordinator, too. She joined SBISD as a Spring Shadows Elementary bilingual special education teacher, and was a support instructional specialist in math, science and technology.

In 2004, she was named assistant principal at Ridgecrest Elementary, then became principal in 2006. Her many recognitions include Teacher of the Year, Chapter 1 Teacher of the Year, and Outstanding PTO Volunteer in HISD, Teacher of the Year at Spring Shadows Elementary School and Spring Branch Educational Support Staff Association (SBESA) Boss of the Year.

Two local nominations she wrote for Houston West Chamber of Commerce Business Partnership Award were named winners recently. “I am so honored and humbled to be named Elementary Principal of the Year,” Principal Thomas says.

“I was very surprised when they announced that I had won because I work with such an outstanding group of administrators. We all contribute and work closely together to share ideas that will help our students meet the expectations of our shared T-2-4 goal.” Under the Spring Branch Plan 2012-2017, the district has set a goal to double the number of graduates earning either a technical degree, a two-year or four-year degree.

The goal is called T-2-4 in brief. “The Ridgecrest staff is one of the best in the district. They work so hard to serve all our students and the community of Ridgecrest, and they make it a pleasure for me to come to work every day,” she said. Principal Thomas is married and has two adult children, both of whom attended SBISD schools, as well as a grandson. Karen Liska has served as the principal at Spring Woods Middle School, 9810 Neuens, for the past two years.

She was principal for four years before that at Thornwood Elementary School, where she was named Elementary Principal of the Year in 2011. Principal Liska has 19 years of classroom experience, and has now worked the past 16 years as either a principal or administrator. From 1986 to 2007, she worked as a special education teacher, assistant principal and principal in Spring ISD. She was also named a Teacher of the Year in 1997.

A 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she began her long career teaching special education in Milwaukee and in Green Bay. She later earned a master’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, then the Principal Academy at Lamar University in Beaumont.

At Spring Woods Middle, Principal Liska and her team turned around low student scores in particular subjects through a strategic, planned focus on academics and achievement in every classroom. Separately, she joined a group of 412 U.S. educators invited by the College Board to visit and travel through China, observing Chinese schools in Beijing and Tainjin.

The overseas trip provided her insight into Chinese student experiences in elementary, middle and high schools. In China, she talked to youths, teachers and staff members and visited classrooms during the Nov. 7-15 College Board-sponsored trip. “It was a truly great immersion experience to see what it is like in a different country with a different language, culture and schools setting.

It greatly helped provide me the ‘real world’ setting that I share now with all our students and staff,” she said. Returning to a middle school setting after years of teaching and supervising in elementary schools has been a wonderful opportunity for Principal Liska to share all her views about student and staff success.

“As an elementary administrator, my 16 years of middle school teaching experience has helped me to prepare students to be academically successful for middle school. Now as a middle school principal, my 19 years at the elementary level helps to guide our practices for students to be successful. We know where the students are coming from when they arrive at our Spring Woods Middle School doors,” Principal Liska said.

“Both experiences have proven invaluable to student, staff and school success.” She reserved her deepest thanks for her middle school staff and principal peers after being named Secondary Principal of the Year.

“I am extremely fortunate to work with a very dedicated staff of professionals who work tirelessly for all our Spring Woods Hawks to SOAR to success. You can not be a successful leader without a great team to work with,” she said. “It is a privilege and honor to be recognized by your peers for what we all do each day for our students. I want to thank all of the great teachers, students, parents, staff and administrators I work with daily – You are all the best!”

Principal Liska and her husband have two adult children, including a son who is a Miami architect and a daughter who is a pharmacist.


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