Faces of KISD: David Rische, ELC North Principal
Each campus principal is unique, and David Rische may be more unique than most. The Principal at Keller ISD’s Early Learning Center North greets students in the morning with his pet raccoon. He opens faculty meetings with magic tricks. And recently, he authored and self-published his third book.
It’s safe to say Rische stays busy and likes to have fun while overseeing his campus. The raccoon is just a puppet, by the way. But the new book is a serious resource providing advice for teachers – or aspiring teachers – when they are applying and interviewing for jobs.
“I was just wanting to do something to help teachers out,” Rische said. After being challenged in a workshop in the Summer of 2017 to come up with an educational product, Rische thought he could use his years of experience interviewing teachers as a school administrator to impart wisdom to aspiring teachers.
“I’ve done hundreds of interviews, and I thought, ‘I wonder what a book from a principal’s perspective would be like for new teachers coming out of college that have never been in an interview before, or for veteran teachers wanting to get back in the classroom,’” Rische said.
Principal Turned Author
Rische’s book – Top of the Class Teacher Interviews – began as most books do: with a blank sheet of paper. He took 45 minutes of quiet time to write down every thought he had on the subject, took a 15-minute break, then came back for 45 more minutes.
In his office, he pulls out the sheet of paper where the book began. “As you can see, I kind of ran out of room,” he said, as he references the sheet filled with notes, as well as a few other sheets onto which his ideas overflowed.
Rische is a self-proclaimed “morning person,” and so for six months, he worked on the book, little by little, in 15-30-minute blocks each morning. When he finished it in January, he sent it off to Amazon, which has a self-publishing platform that hosts the book sales and prints copies of the book as they are ordered. It’s a process he has started to get the hang of after self-publishing two previous books, both devotionals – one about prayer and one about navigating the challenges of being a teenager.
“There are many times you’re so sick of staring at it,” Rische said of his unfinished manuscript. “Then they send you a sample copy in the mail, and that’s what’s really cool, when you see that final, finished copy.”
Since debuting in January, Top of the Class Teacher Interviews has spent at least two weeks as an Amazon “Hot Seller” for Educational Research. Rische was surprised when payment for one copy came through in British Pounds, leaving him to assume it was bought by someone in Great Britain.
“Now I can say it’s an international best seller,” he jokes.
Baylor University has even reached out to Rische about selling the book in the campus bookstore. Rische said he just hopes a few people can benefit from the tips shared in the book. With so many resources out there for interviewing, having advice specifically for teachers is rare, and even rarer, is finding information that comes from someone you know has experience as a school administrator.
Humor and Humility
Rische is in his eighth year as a principal in Keller ISD. Before joining the Early Learning Center North last school year, he was a principal at Friendship Elementary School and Whitley Road Elementary School before that. He also spent time at Bear Creek Intermediate and Hidden Lakes Elementary in assistant principal roles, following nearly a decade in the classroom teaching math and science at Chisholm Trail Intermediate School.
His playful spirit might play best with Keller ISD’s youngest students, though. The Early Childhood set still have enough wonderment and Rische’s puppetry is skillful enough to have them believe that the pet raccoon might be real. He also never misses a dress-up day, usually going all out whether it’s as a superhero or literary character.
Hidden Lakes Elementary Principal Melanie Graham said Rische has a personality that makes a positive, lasting impression, as he did in the short time he worked as an assistant principal with her at HLES.
“Dave brought a wonderful sense of humor and humility to our campus,” Graham said. “His genuine care and compassion for others was evident in all his actions and allowed him to build trusting relationships very quickly.”
Those who don’t know Rische as the ELC North principal may also recognize him from his many roles in District video productions – particularly those that are comedic in nature. Over the years, Rische has appeared as the “Dwight”-like character in the Central High feeder pattern principals’ spoofs of The Office, he’s parodied Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag videos, and has participated in a number of other projects, many of which he’s taken on the responsibility of writing himself.
“David is always enthusiastic about helping out with various video projects,” said KISD Media Production Director Matt Hill. “He brings a ton of ideas to the table and always offers to do the hard work of putting together scripts, organizing people to be in the video, gathering costumes, and so much more.”
While working on extra projects can keep him busy, Rische said it’s important to have fun and do things that you enjoy to avoid getting burned out on a job that can sometimes pull you in several different directions.
“I think the most difficult thing for principals is that they’re right in the middle of everything, kind of like on an island,” he said. “You’re working with the central office and people in the community, you sometimes have to have difficult conversations with parents and staff, and then you’re also the face of that school and really Keller ISD as a whole.”
For Rische, though, it’s all worth it for the opportunity to contribute to student learning and teacher growth. He said he loves that it’s new and different every day.
Making an Impact
Because of the potential impact that educators can have, Rische takes the task of hiring the right teachers seriously, and hopes that through his book, teachers will find themselves better prepared to approach interviews with confidence.
“None of us realize the true impact we really have and how that can carry on, whether it’s with a child and encouraging them, or employing somebody and the massive impact that person can have on a student,” Rische said.
He said that when he interviews individuals, he wants to hear them truly speaking from their heart and their experiences, not reciting canned answers they read off the internet. He works hard to get a picture of the whole person, and typically interviews more than the average number of applicants to make sure he’s getting the right teacher for the right position.
Erica Wood has served as ELC North’s Assistant Principal for the past two years alongside Rische, and said she has enjoyed the opportunity to learn from him and the passion he brings to his role.
“He strives to put the needs of his staff first to ensure there is a positive environment for the students, and also leads by example,” Wood said. “He’s a wonderful example of an administrator that balances his work and personal live, and encourages his staff to do the same.”
A lifelong student, Rische knows there is still a lot he can learn, but he hopes that the wisdom he has gained so far can be passed on to others to prepare them for long, successful careers as educators.
“It goes by incredibly fast,” Rische said of his 22 years in education. “Twenty-two years… and my high school counselor said I’d never amount to anything,” he says with a smile.