Principal used first grade teacher as inspiration

July 09, 2008 at 1:32 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Sylvia Zeno used to play the role of a teacher with her dolls. Now, she gets the chance to do so with hundreds of students each and every day.
Courtesy Photo
Sylvia Zeno used to play the role of a teacher with her dolls. Now, she gets the chance to do so with hundreds of students each and every day.
This is the second in a three-part series highlighting the parish’s three principals
of the year.

Being named the Regional Middle School Principal of the Year was a huge honor for Albert Cammon Principal Sylvia Zeno. And while the award may have come as a surprise for the veteran educator, the fact that she ended up in the profession wasn’t a surprise at all.

“Like most educators, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher at an early age,” Zeno said. “I had many outstanding teachers while in school and they served as mentors and supporters for me.

“I would play the role of a teacher in my home in the utility room with my dolls.”

Zeno is a parish native who grew up in Norco with her parents and two older sisters. Though her father passed away when she was only 10-years-old, Zeno didn’t let that heartbreak stop her from reaching her dream. She eventually went on to graduate from Destrehan before attending Xavier University - just as her two sisters had done before her.
Zeno credits her first grade teacher Octavia Johnson with leading her down the path to a life in education.

“She was such a lady in so many ways - kind, caring, always impeccably dressed, articulate and always encouraging her students to do their best,” Zeno said. “As a teacher in St. Charles Parish Schools, she was an innovator and actually looped and taught us again the following year for second grade.”

Besides serving as principal at Albert Cammon for the past 12 years, Zeno also taught at Norco Elementary for 10 years. In between those two stops, she served as an assistant principal at J.B. Martin, Eual J. Landry and Harry Hurst, and had a two-year stint as principal of Norco.

“I have enjoyed all aspects of my career,” Zeno said. “The principalship, however, affords me the opportunity to serve as both a teacher and a leader.”

While each school may have had a different culture, Zeno says that all of them have children who have the same basic needs and desires.

“When their needs are met through the proper settings and instruction, their goals can be achieved,” she said.

When she finally landed at Albert Cammon, Zeno began to realize all the work that went into being a middle school principal.

“The thing that surprised me most was the amount of time that middle school principals invest in the profession and the various roles that principals play in helping to meet the needs of middle school children,” Zeno said.

For Zeno, an average day now is one filled with children who have lots of energy and raging hormones. Because of that, each day is different.

“You may plan your day, but you must be flexible enough to meet the needs of children as necessary,”

Usually, Zeno finds herself administering morning announcements before heading to classrooms to make sure everything is going according to plan. Then, there are the team meetings, conferences, lunch and evening duties, such as after school meetings and extracurricular activities.
“Although I am not a morning person, I get up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise in preparation of the new day,” Zeno said.
But even though her slate is full enough with just those activities, Zeno is always thinking about ways to make her school better.

She not only wants to continue to hire the best and the brightest staff to provide a rigorous and exciting curriculum, but Zeno wants to keep the community involved in the school while maintaining and improving the school facilities. Of course, she will continue to implement and integrate technology into her educational programs.

“St. Charles Parish Schools is always reviewing and implementing long-term plans for our district, therefore, my long-term plans are an outgrowth of those plans,” Zeno said. “All of these goals contribute to the success of our students.”

Because she is a people-oriented person, those goals are easy for Zeno to implement because she enjoys working with so many individuals with various skills, backgrounds and cultures.

However, the job can bring difficulties.

“One size does not fit all, and it is not always easy finding the right technique or approach to reach individual children as quickly as we would like to do so,” Zeno said.

But the caliber of students that reside in the parish, and the school district as a whole,  can help alleviate some of that.

“I think we have great students in St. Charles Parish Schools who are always striving for excellence in whatever they do,” Zeno said. “We have the best school system in the state of Louisiana, as well as in parts of the nation.
“I have been blessed to have been part of this district as a student as well as an employee.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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