Lisa Earby, E.L. Ross Elementary principal, originally entered Kiser for consideration.
She said Kiser has served as her mentor since she became a principal at the elementary level.
“He has been really good to help me through my first couple of years as an elementary principal,” Earby said. “His leadership is not just in the building, it is in the school system.”
Kiser admitted surprise at the nomination.
“I really thought Lisa was doing it so I would have more forms to fill out,” Kiser said laughing. “Actually, it is an honor to have a peer nominate you for any award. It is an honor in and of itself.”
Continued Kiser, “It says they see something in you which is worth being honored. It is a nice feeling.”
He was surprised to be named as one of the 18 principals recognized in Tennessee.
“You don’t get into this business to receive those kind of awards,” Kiser said. “You do this because you want to help other people and make their lives better.”
Being named Southeast Principal of the Year means Kiser is now in the running for Tennessee’s Principal of the Year. The next step will cut the remaining 18 down to nine. These final principals will then meet in Nashville for the principal of the year honors.
Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff said he believes Kiser has a chance at attaining the title.
“In our eyes, he has what it takes to be that type of principal,” Ringstaff said. “We look for very strong principals. ... We expect excellence out of our principals and they deliver.”
Earby said Kiser serves on a couple of different panels.
“He is a quiet leader. He flies under the radar,” Earby said. “He researches, stays on top of current trends and any time there are policy changes, he is on top of the game.”
Ringstaff said city schools faculty and staff are extremely proud of Kiser.
“He is the kind of guy who could do almost any job in the school system. He just gets the big picture. It doesn’t matter if he is at Cleveland High, Cleveland Middle, whichever elementary school or in the central office,” Ringstaff said. “He understands roles and he understands how to do it.”
Continued Ringstaff, “He is very flexible and even-tempered. I look up to him. He is just a good guy. He makes people around him better.”
“That is all you can ask for in any type of leader, people around you becoming better because of you.”
Kiser said his role as a principal is approached in the same way as every other role in his life.
“All the things I do are about people and hopefully being able to, in some form or fashion, make their lives better. Help them to reach goals they could not reach by themselves,” Kiser said. “I choose to do these things because I hope to make a difference.”
“I feel like the only lasting legacy you can leave is by leaving your mark on people.”