Zaionz named Kannapolis Principal of the Year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dr. Rachel Zaionz is Kannapolis City Schools’ 2013-2014 Principal of the Year. She earned the honor because of her outstanding leadership at Shady Brook Elementary School.
Zaionz has led Shady Brook to becoming the first North Carolina school to be nationally recognized as a Professional Learning Community. Shady Brook is one of only two schools in the state to earn that honor. Professional Learning Communities must meet national standards for collaboration among staff, parents and community members. They also must focus not only on student learning but also on the continuous learning of all staff members.
Under the leadership of Zaionz, Shady Brook has improved student achievement and dramatically increased parent and community involvement. The school has developed a STEM lab where students can focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It also has launched partnerships with Midway United Methodist Church, First Wesleyan Church, Opportunity House, Target and the Academic Learning Center. These partnerships bring in volunteers and community resources that help students before, during, and after school. Church members and professionals tutor students and provide clothing, food and other resources to students and their families.
In addition, a partnership with UNC Charlotte’s Professional Development School allows Shady Brook staff members to work with education professors year-round to improve teaching and learning at the school. Last December, Shady Brook was recognized as a national leader in educational change by Richard and Rebecca DuFour, who are the founders of Professional Learning Communities around the country. Shady Brook students also improved their academic achievement during 2011-2012 (the latest year available) and made high academic growth.
“I am so proud of the work that has been done by staff, parents and students at Shady Brook,” Zaionz said. “They have embraced the idea of Professional Learning Communities, and our staff has welcomed taking on leadership roles to help our children succeed. I am also extremely grateful for the entire Shady Brook community. Our churches, neighbors, and parents live the vision of our school, which is to ‘work together to do whatever it takes to assure that all children learn,’ and our achievement reflects it. Shady Brook is a true community school, and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
Superintendent Dr. Pam Cain says Zaionz is a wonderful instructional leader who deserves to be principal of the year. “Dr. Zaionz is an outstanding educator who has led Shady Brook to national recognition as a Professional Learning Community. She has always been dedicated to success for her students and professional growth for her staff. She also has reached out to the community to make sure students have what they need to be successful. I am extremely proud of all she has accomplished, and I am delighted that she will represent Kannapolis City Schools as our principal of the year.”
Zaionz has been principal of Shady Brook Elementary since 2006. She joined Kannapolis City Schools in 2001 as an Academically and Intellectually Gifted teacher at Forest Park and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools. She later became curriculum coordinator at Forest Park Elementary before becoming principal of Shady Brook. Prior to joining KCS, Zaionz taught in Cleveland County, Gaston County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Rachel Zaionz graduated Summa Cum Laude from Gardner Webb University with a doctorate degree in education. She also graduated Summa Cum Laude from Converse College with a master’s degree in education. She earned her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Queens College. Other honors include being named the North Carolina Health Education Teacher of the Year, a Time Warner Cable Star Teacher, and earning recognition from the National Council for Social Studies for developing a National Social Studies Program of Excellence. She will now represent Kannapolis City Schools in the regional competition for North Carolina Principal of the Year.