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The Student News Site of Dakota Ridge High School

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The Student News Site of Dakota Ridge High School

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Meet The Staff: Kim Keller

Kim Keller
Ms. Keller and her “work buddy” pictured on her first day back to Dakota Ridge, as she prepares for students to come back.

Mrs. Kim Keller’s first year as principal began with ridding the building of mice and snakes, navigating through a large school budgeting debt that had to be rectified, and managing a budget that is based on enrollment. But despite a challenging first year, Keller says she doesn’t regret her decision to change careers and become principal.

Q: How has your role as the principal of Dakota Ridge changed over time? 

A: It was a tumultuous year [her first year]. This year has started out much better–knock on wood–and I’ve been able to manage my emails. I’ve been able to manage the building as a whole and feel much more comfortable, and I can start making some of the practices…put my name to them, if that makes sense.

Q: In general, what is the most difficult part of your job? 

A: The day-to-day unexpected work that has to be completed. In other words, we’re all used to having different tasks that we can do over the course of time. When I come in in the morning, I could have 30 emails, and of those 30 emails, 20 of them have to be dealt with immediately. They have to be dealt with during the day. I have to get back to a parent. I have to deal with someone at the district. I have to deal with a salary… It’s like Dr. Jelinek used to say: “It’s the art of the negotiation.” I’ve got teachers I’m meeting with to get ready for their observations and evaluations. But this day-to-day of what I have to do is the biggest part that I was never used to–just the things that come up and I have to deal with immediately.

Q: Going back to Dr. Jelinek, was he a good mentor for all of this? 

A: He was phenomenal. He was absolutely phenomenal. I was so worried about different things, like the budget, and this and that, and he said, “You learn those…you have the instructional leadership…you’re fine there. But what you’re going to have to learn, and I can’t prepare you for, is what happens every single day.” And it’s really the truth. When parents call and they want to talk to the principal, they want to talk to the principal.  They don’t want to be put off. So that’s what he helped me with. But it’s like he said, no one could prepare you for it. He was phenomenal, he spent two years getting me ready for this job.

A: What has been your favorite part of the job?

Q: Being able to get to know more and more and more kids. Being out in front of the building first thing in the morning and saying, “Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning,” and everybody’s like, ‘‘Good morning, good morning, good morning, good morning.” And what’s really been fun this year is learning Instagram and being able to walk into classes and post, and just get Dakota Ridge out there into the community. That’s what’s so much fun for me—I just love it.

A: What were some of the most surprising aspects of this job?

Q: How willing sometimes people are to smile to my face to agree with me, and then turn around and say something to others outside of the building, or in their department meetings, or that kind of a thing. That was the hardest thing. There are teachers in this building who have my back and I appreciate that. And I’m loyal to my teachers, but teachers have their own groups of friends, and administrators live in a world that teachers don’t live in. And so sometimes we become the chatter in the teachers’ lounge during lunch. And I have to sometimes grapple with that because I want people to like me, if that makes sense. But I’ve also learned, you know what, I don’t always get that, and that’s ok. It’s like administrators have to accept the fact that they’re not going to be liked by everybody, and that’s what I’ve done.

Q: Now that you’re principal, would you ever want to go back to being a teacher or an assistant principal?

A: I don’t want to go back to that now. I’ll stay as the principal. I’ve checked off my bucket list of careers. I started in elementary school, then I went to middle school, and then I came here to high school teaching, then I went to assistant principal, and this is my last stop. I’ve fulfilled my bucket list of teaching. I’m a career educator—love it. And I wouldn’t go back into the classroom. The teachers here are my heroes, seriously. And now that I’ve had a year in this job, I love it and I wouldn’t go back to that. 

This image was posted on Ms. Keller’s instagram (@dakota_ridge_principal).
Mrs. Keller (right) posing with Lukas Garza (left) in July. The two are celebrating the “Dr. Jelinek Leaving a Legacy Award” that Garza received. (Kim Keller)

Q: What do you hope to see happen this year?

A: My biggest thing this year is I want to see us really wrap our brains around the new grading and have kids and parents understand that this is really what’s best for all kids. That working our way towards a 4 point grading system for the whole school is giving kids a chance to be successful academically. We all became teachers because we love our content, and we should be teaching that content and making sure our kids understand that content, and not grading on if they got to class on time, if they have their phone out, if they brought in Kleenex for extra credit. Those are all subjective grades that have nothing to do with whether a student understands that content or not. So, we’re looking for proficiency. When a student can have proficiency from 60 to 100, and there’s only ten points where they can fail (on a 50-100 scale), that gives them a chance of being able to demonstrate content proficiency more aptly than with a regular grading scale.

Q: What are your thoughts on the changes at the school this year and how they’re working so far?

A: After the first day with teachers back I thought, “What the heck did I get myself into?” I told the teachers, “We’ve got a year to prepare, it’s going to be muddy, we’re going to have lots of questions, there are going to be times when we say, ‘What the heck are we doing?’ but it’s what’s best for kids.” So I’m pleasantly surprised at how I haven’t heard as much as I thought I was going to from teachers. I’ve had kids who have asked me questions, and once we’ve talked and I’ve explained things, they walk out like, “Ok, good. I get it!” In the end I think it’s going to be great. I’m glad that we have the new vestibule—as soon as we get the glass, that’ll be even more so. Kids really expressed fear last year, a little bit of safety questions. I feel like we’ve really been working on that. I’m excited for Talon Time–I’m excited for Talon Time to be used well. I’m excited for the seniors and their senior lounge. I think it’s going to be a good year. I really, truly do.

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About the Contributor
Sara Pfitzer
Sara Pfitzer, Editor
Sara Pfitzer is a second-year writer for the Dakota Ridge Cord News. She joined the team to further her skills in writing. Outside of school, Sara enjoys spending time with friends.

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