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Elizabeth Riesenberger, Principal John Foster Dulles Elementary School Cincinnati, OH

Elizabeth Riesenberger

Principal Elizabeth Riesenberger embraces the role of being an instructional leader who focuses the efforts of the staff and families on the development of the whole child. With her belief in and implementation of shared leadership, she has nurtured a positive support system among staff. She developed the school’s first building leadership team (BLT) which provides teachers opportunities to share instructional ideas and builds a sense of family among the staff. Teachers started a monthly “Staff Spotlight” where groups share fun facts about their lives with students and staff from a personal, family perspective. The BLT started a Wednesday staff support system called the “Woot, Woot” wagon. Families donate small gifts, and PTA volunteers visit various staff each week and give a small token and kind message from the children. This event has become so popular that families are now donating gift cards, snacks, teacher supplies, and home-made goodies to share.

An invaluable ingredient in the success of Dulles Elementary is the creation of a “community of caring” and the focus on being respectful, responsible, and safe. For the last nine years, Dulles has implemented a Positive Behavior Intervention Supports System. Students are recognized daily with “Power Paws” for being Respectful, Responsible, and Safe. This work has resulted in decreased office referrals and an increased recognition of behaviors that support a positive learning environment. Principal Riesenberger has been a vanguard for using data from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire student survey to identify and proactively support students in need of social-emotional support. Principal Riesenberger organized teams who immediately provide each student with additional support. The student support is individualized and based on additional information gathered through communication with the student, parents/guardians, and teachers.

Inclusion of students with disabilities and honoring the concept of least restrictive environment has been a strong thread in the cultural fabric of Dulles Elementary School. Principal Riesenberger has worked closely with general and special education teachers to implement inclusionary practices. Teachers work collaboratively to ensure that each student is achieving their maximum potential through rigorous instruction.

For the last five years, Principal Riesenberger has emphasized the consistent message of focusing on standards, assessing learning, and adjusting instruction to fit the needs of every learner every single day. She helped build student growth meetings to focus data discussions on mastery of standards. This simple formula of teaching, assessing, and re-teaching, based on individual student needs has helped mold the success at Dulles. There is a laser focus in staff meetings, during grade level data meetings, and in individual teacher value-added meetings, on instruction that adheres to the standards and is differentiated for all students.

In the 2014-15 school year, Principal Riesenberger led the launching and implementation of a Spanish immersion program. Currently, the program includes children from grades 1-5. Principal Riesenberger was a pioneer in this endeavor and demonstrated remarkable innovation, leadership, and guidance as the program expanded from a pilot to two other elementary schools. She was instrumental in the district expansion by hosting Spanish immersion engagements and parent and community meetings. In 2017-18, through a relationship with the Spanish Embassy and a partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, Dulles received a veteran 4th grade teacher from Barcelona, Spain who will teach for two more years. This has brought about a special relationship and has helped students grow in their understanding of the world around them. Most importantly, the students are not only gaining a new language but continue to have success in their curriculum areas and state tests.

Principal Riesenberger is the consummate professional who leads with passion, knowledge, empathy, professionalism, and an unwavering commitment to serving the students, families, and staff of Dulles Elementary School. The high growth and achievement of her students is the direct result of her leadership, vision, and perseverance in serving her school community.