If you’re looking for Ryan Sykes, an assistant principal at Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Hopewell, Virginia, skip his office. You’ll likely find him high-fiving and fist-bumping students and teachers in the halls, or modeling lessons and positive behavior supports in classrooms. One of four administrators and a former math teacher, Sykes oversees math instruction, discipline and class activities at the high-poverty school. He is a strong instructional leader, coordinates the math department’s professional learning communities, and helps teachers develop aligned lessons that include spiraled warmups and Socrates web-based instruction. To make sure every student is learning, Sykes sits side by side with teachers as they study data to determine the best interventions for individual students. Woodson’s eighth-graders show consistent overall improvement, especially in math, where 83% passed SOL (Standards of Learning) assessments last spring—a jump from quarterly benchmark scores and 6% higher than the state average.
Sykes has a magical ability to connect with students. He knows every student by name and builds relationships with all of them, especially those with the greatest needs. His energy is boundless and contagious. Sykes is the first one on the dance floor at school socials, eats lunch with students in the cafeteria and tackles the obstacle course with them on field day, coaxing reluctant students from the sidelines into the action. He spent an entire day clad in the leotard and tights of Frozone, a character from “The Incredibles,” to fulfill a promise after students reached their target on state assessments. Sykes serves on the district’s action team for improving attendance, studying specific student data as he works with attendance officers to problem-solve with families. His background in special education makes him particularly sensitive to working with all people’s talents and challenges.
Smart, confident and respected, Sykes goes the extra mile to get the best from students, teachers and parents. He researched, coordinated and implemented an advisory program that helps students foster peer-to-peer relationships through positive behavior, communication, social and empathy skills. Sykes supervised a yearlong STEM program for underserved African American young men at Woodson made available through a grant from Virginia State University and Verizon. Students move to high school brimming with confidence because of the advisory groups, mentoring sessions and tutoring services he facilitates.
Sykes earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies in 2011 and a master’s in administration and supervision in 2014 from Virginia State University. He is pursuing a doctorate in administration and supervision.
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