LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kathy Kish

Position: Principal
School: Indian Woods Elementary School
School District: Port Huron Area School District
City, State: Kimball, MI

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Kathy Kish was nominated by her district's executive director of student and staff services, Tracie Eschenburg.

Ms. Kish is one of the most giving, caring people you could ever work with! She leads by putting her whole self into everything she does for her staff, students, families, and community. Port Huron Schools was blessed to have her join the team in 2017 after a long and impactful career as a teacher, counselor and administrator in a neighboring district. She is well known in her county as a caring educational leader who is always willing to try new things to meet the social and academic needs of students. 

Ms. Kish came to Port Huron Schools with a desire to make a positive impact, both at Kimball Elementary and within the community. Her years of experience and track record of success prepared her for the challenges she would face at Kimball, a rural school with a high level of poverty. She knew there were many obstacles that Kimball families faced, including transportation barriers and lack of adequate resources. Ms. Kish doesn’t see obstacles, but opportunities to build relationships and provide support. 

Ms. Kish welcomed the opportunity to be the first school in her district to implement a partnership with a local counseling agency. The primary goal of this partnership is to meet the social-emotional needs of students while reducing barriers such as transportation or coordination of services between support agencies and the school. A side benefit has also been the professional learning and support the outside agency provides to staff as they work with some of the most challenging students. Ms. Kish's background in school counseling and her huge heart for others has been part of this success. She operates under the belief that school should be the hub of the community, and she knows that often times, it is the safest, most stable place for children. 

Ms. Kish does not just work with students and their families during typical school hours. She goes to their neighborhoods to make connections, from staff Christmas caroling and back to school home visits, to group bike rides and Popsicles with Principal Kish. Ms. Kish also chose to adopt a family in need and gathered a group of friends to regularly provide food, clothing, parent education, and community-based experiences for the children, all out of her own paycheck. She personally takes them to a variety of local spots to provide experiences they otherwise would not have, such as the local waterside park, the local parade, and even their first time ever going to a restaurant. In addition to donating her time, money, and talent, she has taught them social skills by role modeling throughout the time together. This personal mission of hers started when a young student called her on her cell phone over one weekend. He said that he found her number in his mom’s phone and didn’t know who else to call because they were hungry and there was no food in the house. Ms. Kish took action because she cares. 

In addition to leading the school, Ms. Kish coordinates with other local charitable organizations to provide for the needs of her families. One of those is Tires and Treads, a nonprofit that serves to collect and provide gently used clothing (especially shoes), as well as funding so that elementary schools can replenish their supply of these items, should they run out. Ms. Kish also created an outdoor food pantry, which is filled weekly by staff and other donors. The pantry is open to families and the Kimball community. She was not directed or asked to create or coordinate these resources. She simply saw a need and took action. Her staff supports her because they see that she leads with a genuine desire to improve the lives of others in need. 

In her second year as principal of Kimball Elementary, she learned that the school would be closing due to decreased enrollment in the district and a need to restructure. She took the lead to keep the atmosphere positive with a focus on celebrating the Kimball legacy rather than the sadness of closing the school. Over 300 people, mostly alumni of Kimball, attended the Legacy Dinner she hosted at the school. The Kimball students were disbursed to several different buildings, with the majority following Ms. Kish to her new assignment at Indian Woods Elementary, which is just a few miles down the road. She embraced the change as the leader of a new school, and she has brought many of her ideas to support families in a new segment of the community.  

Her commitment to creating a better community extends beyond her school. She is on the Executive Committee of the St. Clair County Child Abuse and Neglect Council and President of  the St. Clair County Virtual Learning Academy Board of Trustees. In these roles, she is able to advocate for families throughout the community.

"Kathy has positively impacted so many lives and is constantly seeking ways to do more for our schools and our community," said Eschenburg. "I can think of no one more deserving for this honor."

Comments (47)

Don Hunsucker Posted over a year ago

Wow !!! Kathy Kisk...The Hunsuckers had 6 Boys in the Capac Schools, and Kathy was a great mentor and friend to all of them. Our family could never repay her for what she has done for us. Just like all the other post are saying. I could not think of a MORE DESERVING PERSON.....

Chris Hunsucker Posted over a year ago

In my eyes Kathy would be the perfect recipient for this Lifechanger of The Year Award. That would be a good word to describe what she has done for so many during her time on this earth so far. Never wasting her time here, she sees a need and she jumps right in to do what's best for anyone she meets. I was so blessed to have met Kathy first about 16 years ago when she was a counselor for one of my oldest sons at Capac High school. Kathy was there for us and with us during the loss of our son. She had gone above and beyond to help him and we didn't really know her very well then. The way she was impacted you would have thought she was our family. How she treated the other students and all of us here, was exactly what we all need more of which is true love and compassion for our fellow neighbor in need. Kathy was so much a part of our healing and support for years after and she also was hugely impacted 4 years later with the loss of our oldest son. I know of so many stories like ours where Kathy was there for so many others regardless of the time or day just to make sure the best help was given. I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for what she does and has done for so many during her life. We all need more people in our life like Kathy and I am grateful she was put in ours at such difficult times. She so deserves this award and more, I love you Kathy! Thank you again for all you do for so many.

Connie Evans Posted over a year ago

I could not think of a more deserving person to recieve this award. Kathy is the most caring person towards kids and her staff. If it wasn't for her I wouldn't be where I am today. She has taught me how to be professional and caring in my career. Her love towards kids is unconditional. If Kathy sees a need for something in a childs life she goes above and beyond to do everything she can to make sure that needs gets met. One of the best people I have had the privilege to work with !!!! Kathy sure has been a life changer for so many people.

Steven M. Kish, Jr. Posted over a year ago

My sister Kathy has always been their for her students, her school district and her community. She was there for me during the most difficult times in my own life. I am so proud and honored in being here older “Big” brother.

Nicolas Williams Posted over a year ago


Sharon K Cadrette Posted over a year ago

Congratulations, Kathy! We are so proud of you and couldn't agree more with those who are giving this award - you are a LifeChanger! I am blessed to count you as a friend and colleague.

Stacy Biscorner Posted over a year ago

Congratulations, Kathy! You are a one of a kind person. It was an honor and a privilege to work with you during my time at Kimball Elementary School. You're one of the greatest principals I've ever known. The lives you touched were too many to count, including mine! I'll never forget the time you rode your bike around the neighborhood passing out popcicles to the kids. They really loved that! You've made such a difference in the lives of so many people and this award is so deserving! I miss you very much and hope our paths cross again in the future! Much love and respect, Stacy Biscorner

Tammi Campbell Posted over a year ago

Ms..Kish....I definitely miss you everyday... congratulations on your award...the Helzer kids are proud of you...Keep up the great work...

Teresa Seely Posted over a year ago

Congratulations! We are so proud of you and thankful for all that you do for our students everyday. Our class adores you, Ms. Kish!

Terri Wisenbaugh Posted over a year ago

Congrats to you from the Wisenbaugh family!! You've earned it

Pren Woods Posted over a year ago

Kathy, congrats on being a grand prize finalist. I enjoyed reading your profile and I am may just have to steal the staff Christmas caroling idea. That's genius! See you in Florida.

Tracy Hadrich Posted over a year ago

I had Ms Kish as a softball coach in high school. She is amazing, always encouraging and willing to help. She was my kids assistant principal and always kept parents informed if there were any problems, or just to let us know what a good student they were.

Tammi Campbell Posted over a year ago

Ms Kish was the best elementary principal that my kids had..she always went above and beyond...helped my son through his rough times when he got bullied....oh how we are grateful for her....definitely miss her in the capac district..

Rita harvey Posted over a year ago

She's an amazing lady..I have known her forever...she is the kindest most caring person..we need more ppl like her in this world..

Darcy Flynn Posted over a year ago

I first learned of Kathy about nine years ago when she was the Principal at Capac Elementary School. She sent a very powerful letter to me requesting a donation from my CAPAC Fund at the Four County Community Foundation. In her letter Kathy explained the importance of literacy for children and requested help in purchasing IPads for the students. Kathy gave an incredible example of a young boy who was misbehaving in school. Kathy built a trusting relationship with the boy and one day he confided in her that he didn’t misbehave because he wanted to get into trouble, but rather because he didn’t know how to read. Kathy and her staff worked closely with the boy and he became a successful reader. That convinced me that she was the kind of educator we needed more of and that I wanted to get to know. Over the years I have witnessed firsthand the great work that Kathy has done with her students, included connecting some students and their families with needed counseling. Kathy is one of a kind and well deserving of this award. Sincerely, Darcy Flynn

Lorraine Amstutz Posted over a year ago

Kathy is a Lifechanger to many, including myself. When I was a new teacher she became my unofficial mentor and taught me numerous strategies to use in my classroom, with colleagues and parents. Kathy is highly regarded in her professional and private life. She is a person of integrity, insight and selfless giving. She cares deeply for the needs of those within her realm of influence. On a daily basis, she lives out her philosophy of putting others first. One of her goals is to always “do the right thing” even if it isn’t the popular or accepted thing to do. I know of no one who is more deserving of this honor!

Terri X Wisenbaigh Posted over a year ago

Consider it a great honor to have Ms. Kathy Kiss in your school and lives. She helped me direct my 3 daughters through many trials that I never would have thought I would ever have faced. But Kathy was always there to talk me through everything. She became a part of out family just as she did for many others. Her family was never ending but she had time for every "family". Thank you Kathy Kish for making my children's school experience as good as possible. Good luck in your new school home as your "family" grows.

Anita Posted over a year ago

Capac sure misses Ms. Kish! She is a wonderful role model for students and adults alike. It is rare to see an administrator go so far above and beyond. She is completely deserving of this award.

Teresa Seely Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kish is such a kind and caring principal. I love working with her and being able to see first hand what a positive impact she makes on our school community. Our school is truly blessed to have her!

Shylah Eagle Posted over a year ago

The starfish theory embraces the idea that while a single person may not be able to change the world for everyone, they can change the world for one. It originates from a poem where a bunch of starfish are stranded on a beach and a boy is picking them up and throwing them in. While he can't save them all, the the last line of the poem is, "It mattered to that one." There is an awful lot of "It mattered to that one" embodied in Kathy Kish. Kathy is my principal but also my mentor. I've learned a lifetime of valuable lessons from her as she leads by example. She is a truly genuine human being with an absolutely selfless heart. She makes this corner of the world a better, safer, kinder place to be.

jennifer osko Posted over a year ago

This is the first year of school for my son and even though they closed the school that Mrs. Kish was at last year and put those kids into Indian Woods which was a very small school, she has still taken the time to talk to us parents and has been very understanding with some of us that are having first public school jitters. I explained to her how many other children have went to private school and I wasn't sure about public school and she took the time to address my concerns and so far I haven't regretted putting my youngest and last child there. Thank you for being great.

Gina Scott Posted over a year ago

Ms Kish has been my daughters principal a few years now, my daughter has a lot of medical issue's that interrupts her education & Ms Kish has been absolutely positive & involved in getting my daughter the best education possible. Couldn't ask for a better principle!

Cheryl Rogers Posted over a year ago

When I opened my door on Halloween, Ms. Kish was there with some of her students who would not otherwise have been able to participate. That is just one example of the many ways I have seen her go above and beyond for her students. I have witnessed her interacting with students and their families and she displays a high level of empathy and caring. Additionally, Ms. Kish is a long time member of the Executive Board of the Child Abuse Neglect Council of St. Clair County where she tirelessly advocates for the needs of the most at risk children. Kathy is most deserving of this award!

Ashley Marie Posted over a year ago

When I was in school, Kathy Kish was a Teacher, Coach and Administrator. She was a great leader and role model and she was genuinely interested in what you had to say. She continues to support the community where she started her teaching career. When I graduated from college, Ms. Kish hired me as a math specialist in her building. She connects with students like no one else I know. She wants her kids to be successful. She cares deeply for her students, and supports her staff. She is very deserving of this award.

Teri Laskowski Posted over a year ago

I had her as a teacher, a coach, and FFA advisor back in the 1980’s. Her class was one of my favorite classes! She knew how to make learning fun. Congratulations, Miss Kish??

Jennifer Allen Posted over a year ago

As the Port Huron Area School District's Homeless Liaison, I have had the opportunity to work with Ms. Kish on many different occasions. Ms. Kish is a true advocate for this special population of students. Every day of the week, she works to coordinate and provide resources for our students and families. I have first-hand knowledge of her taking families to food give-a-ways on the weekend and bringing together resources to provide bedding and other basic needs for our families. Kathy is always thinking outside the box to make sure students get what they need both academically and non-academically.

Barb Redding Posted over a year ago

I taught with Kathy for over 20 years. From teacher to counselor to principal and even interim superintendent, she went above and beyond expectations. Her teaching techniques were clear and concise so it was easy for students to learn. She made learning fun and rewarding. She was especially good at connecting with her students. They knew she cared about them and their successes. No matter who she worked with-students, fellow teachers, parents, and community, she wanted to make our little school and village, a good place to live and learn. She is what a master educator is. Thanks for making this small part of the world... better.

Jessica Grace Posted over a year ago

Absolutely deserved nomination! As a parent of a bullied student I can not express how grateful I am for this amazing lady! She puts her heart into each child. She is supportive and beyond understanding and after dealing with administrators that were neither, you restored my faith that there are people that do care!

Kathy Misiewicz Posted over a year ago

Mrs Kish was a great teacher...but she wasn't just a teacher she was our friend .someone we could turn to about anything...good luck Mrs kish..from Kathy nd Dorothy Misiewicz.

Michelle Bohland Posted over a year ago

As a former, student and athlete of Ms.Kish’s I have to say she is an amazing woman! Congratulations and well deserved!

Lori Hannon Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kish was a teacher at Capac High School when I was there in the 80’s. It was obvious she became a teacher for all the right help and encourage kids so they could be successful. It is also obvious that she knew she could even have a bigger impact as an administrator reaching the kids when they needed it most at a young age. Ms. Kish is very deserving of this award.

Beth Walker Posted over a year ago

Kathy was my mentor when I first started teaching at Capac HS. With her guidance, I was guided towards what leadership, compassion, and support means in a school setting. Thank you for all that you do Kathy! You are truly one of a kind.

Heather Slayton Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kish, Congratulations on your nomination! You deserve it. You are an amazing woman and we miss you here in Capac! Continue making the world a better place. Much love, The Slayton's

Renee Posted over a year ago

Miss Kish is an amazing person! I am a proud educator today due in part to her encouragement and dedication to me and my fellow classmates. Miss Kish always saw the best in each of us and went out of her way to make sure we understood and had everything we needed to thrive. Her respect for ALL students and their needs was above and beyond. I am thankful for her help and encouragement in my life and it is wonderful to see continues to put her students first!

Jane Quain Nabors Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Ms. Kish. Very inspired to read all about your great work!

Donna Beatty Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on this well deserved nomination.

Naomi Baba Posted over a year ago

I have known Kathy for over 30 years as my former teach, principle to my children and a community liasion. Kathy has been such an asset to so many communities over the years! She is not afraid to "think outside the box" and take the necessary action when she finds a need in the community. Thank you for all that you do and congratulations on your nomination!

Samantha Ramirez Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kish has always been such an amazing leader. She is always helping everyone. She truly is an inspiration.

Lisa T. Posted over a year ago

Both as a former student and as a former parent of a student to Miss Kathy Kish, I would like to say THANK YOU! Thank you for always putting your heart into everything you do. Big, small, popular, or unpopular, you always handle others with GENUINE kindness and concern. For this and many other reasons, I will always respect you. Well deserved K2!

Sharon K Cadrette Posted over a year ago

I could not agree more with the comments submitted by Tracie Eschenburg! Kathy Kish is an incredible leader and person. In addition to what has been said, I would add that she has the unique ability to listen deeply, making the inquirer feel at ease and respected, no matter the topic being discussed. The respect she has earned has made her a leader that staff, students, parents, and community members want to follow. I am thankful I have the opportunity to work with her! Port Huron Schools is definitely a better place because of Kathy Kish.

Darla Detroyer Posted over a year ago

Always thinking out of the box to break down the barriers in order to further enhance education!

Stacy Biscorner Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kish is one of the greatest principals I have ever worked with and for! She goes above and beyond the call of duty and cares about her students and teachers. She puts students and teachers first and knows what it takes to get the job done! I’m blessed to know Ms. Kish!

Makenzie Jurzysta Posted over a year ago

I would like to recognize Kathy Kish as being an exemplary leader at Indian Woods Elementary. Kathy has a leadership style that is motivating to the staff as she makes it a point to treat her staff as invaluable members in the school community. Adults are consistently recognized for their efforts and Ms. Kish has a unique ability to find and point out the strengths that they possess. Kathy is sincere, kind, logical, and realistic. I don't speak only for myself when I say Kathy makes me strive to be a better teacher and the impact she is having on the staff at Indian Woods is truly remarkable and it is funneling to the students. Kathy deserves to be recognized for all she is doing at Indian Woods and the community of Port Huron.

Wynn and Mary Klug Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on this well deserved nomination! What’s not to like about Kathy Kish.

Dawn Cowhy Posted over a year ago

Kathy was the best teacher I ever had??. She is very caring and gives her all for all students!

Diann moran Posted over a year ago

She was an amazing counselor at Capac High School & Elementary principal Congratulations Kathy glad to see you get a well deserved award and the recognition ??

Jennifer Mousseau Posted over a year ago

Kathy Kish was my teacher and coach in the 80’s. She was a great role model, and positive influence. She was encouraging, supportive and brought out the best in her students and athletes. She always had genuine interest in what was going on. I always felt that she believed in me, and truly wanted me to be successful. In 2000, my daughter started Elementary school, and experienced terrible anxiety. Kathy was at Capac High School, and helped find a solution to help her with her anxiety. She went above and beyond, to help a child that wasn’t even in her building, overcome her fears. I will always appreciate Ms. Kish’s compassion for everyone that she meets. She is very deserving of this award.