Liberty Middle School Principal Audra Sydnor has been named Principal of the Year for 2005 for Fairfax County Public Schools. She was also awarded The Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award. Sydnor, a 21-year veteran of Fairfax County Public Schools, is one of 20 principals selected by The Washington Post for the award. The Principal of the Year award recognizes those principals who go above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of their jobs to create exceptional educational environments.
"I believe that in order to be a good educator, you have to look at each child individually and try to support their needs child-by-child," said Sydnor.
She says the secret to her success is providing her teachers with the necessary resources to help them be successful. She prides herself on getting to know each teacher on a personal level.
"Mrs. Sydnor has the ability to motivate young teachers to recognize and use their gifts and talents; she encourages them to think outside the box. She gives her teachers the guidance they need and the security in knowing that she was once in their shoes," said Yvette Bedford, administrative assistant. Sydnor publishes a weekly memo, Audra's Chatter, which acknowledges the extra efforts and hard work of the faculty and staff. She has served as a mentor for several assistant principals who later went on to become principals of other FCPS schools.
As principal, Sydnor encourages her staff to talk with one another about the curriculum and problems. "The principal is the educational leader. It is important for me to understand my teachers and help them reach their goals," said Sydnor.
To encourage open communication, Sydnor provides Whine and Cheese cards for her staff, allowing them to air complaints without fear of reprisal.
NOT ONLY does Sydnor work hard to make her teachers successful, but she also strives to bring out the best in her students. "When students do well, I compliment them; when a student is struggling, I take them into my office and ask what I can do to help. It is very important for my students to feel comfortable around me. I want them to think of me as a friend," said Sydnor.
"She wants her students to be challenged and successful, regardless of their abilities. She understands the developmental age of middle school students and strives to keep them focused," said PTA president Diane Belden.
Sydnor also recognizes students' successes through honor roll receptions and a biweekly celebration of students who are recommended by staff. When students bring their grades up, she hosts a Lion's Roar reception.
"I get my inspiration and support from the children, teachers, and parents. It's exciting for me to be able to give the resources to make them successful," Sydnor said.
The Burke resident is working on her eighth year as principal. She worked for five years at Lanier Middle School before opening Liberty Middle in 2002.
Sydnor began her career as an English teacher at Edison High School and later at Lake Braddock Secondary School. She also served as peer observer in Area IV and minority student achievement monitor before taking the assistant principal position at Robinson Secondary School in 1994.
"Audra is a caring, devoted, and extremely talented principal. She has never lost sight of her commitment and educational purposes," said Michelle Peyser, Franklin Middle School principal and former Principal of the Year recipient.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Sydnor attended Morgan State University in Baltimore before she went on to receive her Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York City. Sydnor later received her Administrative Endorsement at the University of Virginia. Currently, she is working on her Doctorate at Virginia Tech, which she is very close to completing.
Audra Sydnor is married to Otha Sydnor, a former U.S. military officer. Otha serves as the contract manager for a construction company in Springfield. The couple has two grown children. Their son Marc lives in Atlanta with his wife and 3-year-old son. Stefané, the Sydnor’s daughter, presently resides in Burke.