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Cypress, TX

February 19, 2020 | Gabriel Carrasco

Principal Michelle Rice (bottom left) with Hoover Elementary staff during the school's "Storybook Character Parade"
Principal Michelle Rice (bottom right) with Hoover Elementary staff during the school’s
“Storybook Character Parade”

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumna Michelle Rice was recently named Elementary Principal of the Year for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD , the third-largest school district in Texas with 56 elementary schools. She was also just nominated for the National Distinguished Principal Award for the state of Texas .

“I was surprised and completely humbled,” says Rice. In response to her Elementary Principal of the Year award, she says, “To be recognized by your peers, that’s a huge thing for them to see you in that light. It should really be a Hoover award because, without an amazing team, I couldn’t do what I do.”

Rice serves as the Principal for the Janet Brenner Hoover Elementary School (Hoover) , a pre-k through second-grade campus located across the street from Jowell Elementary . Hoover was founded just over two years ago when the decision was made to split Jowell’s student population with Hoover taking over the school’s lower elementary grades. As Principal, Rice was chosen for the unique task of spearheading the transition and implementing a healthy employee culture at Hoover.

Over the past two years, Rice has committed herself to this endeavor. Hoover has already established itself as a school focused on building up its students in an engaging environment. Rice stresses that this award and her candidacy for National Distinguished Principal are both recognitions of the entire school’s efforts in upholding itself to a high standard of excellence.

Rice helped cultivate this culture through a program she developed called, “Heroes Academy.” The Heroes Academy is an eBook program developed by Rice that is inspired by “Creating Magic,” a book written by Lee Cockerell. This book is based on leadership principles from the Disney Institute d etailing the type of guidance needed to make an effective and encouraging workplace and culture. By faculty going through the Heroes Academy, they learn the importance of valuing others, expectations of their lesson plans, and the students’ learning experience. All teachers, not just new teachers, are required to go through the program every year. “That’s something we utilize to keep that consistent culture alive,” says Rice.

Rice believes that one of Hoover’s strongest qualities is its emphasis on communication, an essential component of the Heroes Academy program. “That (communication) has been huge for our culture. Even if we have to have a difficult conversation, we bring them in and make them feel valued when they get here. We’re treating that person with professionalism and respect because everybody deserves that-to be valued. And that is the expectation.”

Reflecting back on her award and her candidacy for Distinguished Principal, she claims that her faith has played a critical role in reaching this milestone. “I’ve had to learn a lot throughout this process. One of those things is simply acknowledging and trusting that God is in control. Seeing Him at work throughout all of it has taught me to give myself grace just like God gives us grace.”

Although her position prevents her from sharing the gospel directly, she believes her daily interactions with staff and students are opportunities to show Christ’s love. “Just because I can’t share the name of Jesus doesn’t mean that I can’t be Him in the flesh. That’s what I want to do everyday-show Jesus without saying any words.”

“One thing I would like to emphasize is the importance of people just stepping into their calling even if it’s not what full-time ministry looks like. It can be the education world, the business world-these are just as much ministry as a pulpit. I am in the trenches every day surrounded by opportunities to demonstrate my faith and the love of Christ.”

Rice is excited to keep the momentum going for Hoover with future plans to start clubs for students on Fridays.

The winner of the National Distinguished Principal award for the state of Texas will be announced in March.

As a leading Christian university, SAGU educates and prepares individuals who want to serve Christ and others. SAGU helps students discover and develop their God-given callings in a Spirit-empowered, learning community.

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