Princpial Shoutout: Paul Riskus, Walt Disney Magnet School

Adelaida Kim is a fourth grade ESL teacher at Walt Disney Magnet School. She is shouting out her principal, Paul Riskus, and her assistant principals, Anna Trilla, Anna Villchez and Nneka Thompson.

Q: How would you describe your principal? 

Dr. Riskus is very personal. I think when principals are so skilled at what they do, it might feel like it’s hard to reach out to them. But he is very understanding of his staff and the students and families he serves. So that’s what I admire about him.

 Q: If you could describe your principal in three words, what would they be and why?  

Empathetic, passionate and intelligent. Empathetic because he understands what teachers have on their plates. He not only cares about the work that we do, but also about our personal lives, which I think is a very important skill to have as a leader. Passionate, because I think when you have the passion, it’s very easy to tell through how you motivate your organization with the right attitude and high energy. Intelligent, because he is an expert at what he does professionally, but he is also excellent at connecting with others and communicating effectively. 

Q: What is your favorite memory with your principal?  

I was a Teach Plus Policy Fellow last year. We had a presentation at the end of the school year,  and we were able to invite whomever we wanted. I was presenting about ESL instruction in the classroom and its impact on the state policy level. I know Dr. Riskus was super busy because it was the end of the school year, and also, the presentation was after school. It was kind of him to come and show support. It was through Zoom, and whenever I was speaking, he would type it in the chat, “Go, Ms. Kim, I’m proud of you!” The fact that he made the time to come to my presentation touched me.

What message, if any, do you have for your principal this year? 

I would tell Dr. Riskus that I respect him a lot. And I’m always confident that he leads the school with care and enthusiasm because our students and families are happy with the principal that we have. And I know for a fact the staff is very content with his ability as a principal. It’s an honor to work with and learn from a person who has so much experience and knowledge. 

Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your principal?

 Dr. Riskus is very conscious of what is happening in our country right now. It is not easy to lead a conversation about racism, but he is not afraid to learn from our students and staff of Color who have more knowledge and experience on this topic. He is an advocate of the anti-racist curriculum and invites the staff and Disney family members to have discussions regarding racial injustice. So far, we had a conversation after Geroge Floyd’s death and Breonna Taylor’s trial. Dr. Riskus accepts the feeling of discomfort and encourages the staff to combat systemic racism and injustice. 

Lastly, in addition, because our school is pretty big, we have three assistant principals; one for each floor of the school. I want to shout out my floor director and assistant principal, Mrs. Anna Trilla! What I cherish about her is that she encourages the teachers to try things that we’ve never done; she supports us to be innovative. She makes meetings fun and engaging. She’s not talking at us, but trying to learn from us too. So I thank her for that and I enjoy working with her. I love her as a person because she has such a beautiful character.

To learn more about #PrincipalPrideChi and Principal Appreciation Month, click here