’The GOAT’

’The GOAT’

Zissios heralded for 50-year career in education.

To chants heralding her as the “GOAT” of educators, Patricia Zissios retired as principal of Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy following a 50-year career in education.

Invoking the sports metaphor for “the greatest of all time,” Lyles-Crouch PTA president Matias Palavecino praised Zissios at the June 9 Community Celebration that served as an unofficial send off for the nationally recognized educator known to many as Dr. Z.

“No matter what I say it will not be good enough,” Palavecino said. “But that’s ok because with Dr. Z  it’s never good enough. But when you take a step back and realize she will never be satisfied for the good of the school, that’s when you realize she is one of the greats - the greatest of all time.”

Palavecino rhetorically asked the crowd, “Did Phil Jackson or Bill Belichick settle for a few championships? Was it ever good enough? No. That’s what separates the good from the great. Greats never settle and that’s what makes Dr. Z so unique. She always wants more, what’s best for the school, the students, the staff and this community. Only then you realize that she is the GOAT!”

Zissios, who officially left her position June 30, retired after 19 years at Lyles-Crouch. She had previously spent 31 years in the Prince William and Fairfax County school systems and had announced her retirement when she was approached by then-ACPS Superintendent Rebecca Perry.

“I felt I had done what I could do when Rebecca Perry came to visit me,” Zissios said. “She convinced me that I was the right person to come to this little school in Alexandria that would benefit from the Core Knowledge program.”

The Core Knowledge curriculum focuses on teaching students a foundation of knowledge at a young age. Zissios has been nationally recognized for her leadership and success at Lyles-Crouch.

“Dr. Z has laid an excellent foundation for everything that has gone on here at Lyles-Crouch,” said parent Daniel Beason. “The Core Knowledge program and its emphasis on reading has been nothing but fantastic for the kids here. It is a great bonus for kids, especially those coming from less advantaged areas, they have that strong reading foundation to take with them for the rest of their lives. It will help them in everything they do.”

At the time she was hired, Lyles-Crouch was a failing school with less than 200 students.

“The point was for me to bring my proven success with the Core Knowledge curriculum and my expertise with community outreach to Lyles-Crouch,” Zissios said.

While in FCPS, Zissios was recognized in 2001 with the Northern Virginia Leadership Award for Public Service, named Springfield Citizen of the Year in 2002, and named American Legion Educator of the Year 2003 among other leadership awards.

“Over the course of the past 19 years, we have built LCTA into a true community school,” Zissios added. “We have become a Core Knowledge School of Distinction, which is an incredibly difficult vetting process to achieve. We are one of only eight of the over 2,000 Core Knowledge schools nationally and internationally to achieve this status.”

Under Zissios, LCTA has become a Core Knowledge training and visitation site for all other schools.

“We have hosted visitors from Wales, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Ukraine and many states throughout the US,” Zissios said. “We are currently helping educate nearby teams of educators from Arlington County Public Schools, adopters of the Core Knowledge Language Arts program.”

Said Palavecino, “Dr. Z is leaving behind a legacy. She brought Core Knowledge to the school and helped turn Lyles-Crouch into a nationally recognized school.”

Mayor Justin Wilson honored Zissios with a resolution from the City of Alexandria on May 4. In praising her leadership success with Lyles-Crouch, Wilson noted her many other achievements, including 10 straight years of academic achievement as the highest performing school in ACPS, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Nation. 

Zissios was recognized by the General Assembly in January with a similar resolution encompassing 50 years of service in education that included accolades for Lyles-Crouch as a National School of Character and Virginia Naturally School for Environmentally Best Practices.

“My focus for my tenure has been academic rigor through the Core Knowledge curriculum, character education, and community service and citizenship,” Zissios said. “I tell my students, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Take care of your community.”

Despite being ready to retire, Zissios admitted Leaving Lyles-Crouch will be hard.

“I have done this for so long,” Zissios said. “But leaving the connection I have with this community and the feeling of belonging will be hard.”