Principal heads further north

Posted: Monday, June 03, 2002

After 18 years educating on the Kenai Peninsula, Sue Liebner is heading to the Bush.

The longtime elementary school principal is ending a five-year tenure at North Star Elementary in Nikiski.

"Five wonderful, exciting years," she said. "I love it out here."

Liebner is moving to Unalakleet, where she will begin a new life and a new post. She will travel to remote villages to train principals on how to work with teachers and boost standardized test scores.

"I am halfway through my doctorate in curriculum and assessment," she said. "That is what I love to do."

Liebner originally came from Michigan. She taught in Port Lions, in the Kodiak district, for five years before coming to the peninsula. Her first post was as principal at Redoubt Elementary. She subsequently headed Nikiski Elementary and Kenai Middle School before transferring to North Star.

Liebner's time there has been challenging. The school's enrollment shrank from 350 to 285 and funding has been tight.

"We may have cut a program, but we've looked for creative ways to keep programs with less staff. The staff here is incredible," she said.

She praised North Star's teachers for sacrificing their own time and working beyond duty to enrich children's lives with experiences such as field trips and partnerships with area businesses.

Liebner said she has tried to stress positive interactions with the children. When a student gets sent to the principal for an infraction, she tries to get acquainted and head off problems through good communication. She makes a point of calling parents with good news as well as bad.

"I probably spend most of my time with the kids, counseling and discussing with them," she said.

Among her favorite memories of North Star are parent volunteers, driving children home when parents cannot, riding school buses with pupils and special class projects such as the plays former teachers Pam and Rick Gennari produced.

Liebner admits this transfer is hard.

"Every time I think about it I get all weepy," she said. "I don't like to make a fuss. I just want to leave quietly."

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