Published: February 12, 2014
Minnesota is home to a wealth of people who have dedicated their lives to strengthening education. These selfless individuals strive every day to give each and every child the best education possible. While some of these people work in the traditional school or district setting, others perform more behind the scenes duties.
Meet Amanda Varley. Amanda is an Early Childhood Education Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education and was recently recognized by Hamline University with a 2013 Rising Star Award.
A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Amanda works in the Office of Early Learning and in her free time serves as a board member of Young Education Professionals -Twin Cities and sits on committees to the board for the Citizens League.
We sat down with her to see why this “Rising Star” chose to work in education and what she thinks it takes to be a leader:
What brought you to a career in education? Why early education?
I’m someone who’s passionate about nearly every social policy issue. At one point I happened to be working with students with emotional-behavioral disorders in a middle school. Many of the young men who I worked with were in their current situation in part because they were deprived of a strong start. At this point I realized, first, that I don’t have the incredible skill-set that it takes to be a classroom teacher. Secondly, I realized that working in education, particularly early childhood education, is where I could have the most impact to improve societal inequalities- whether it’s income disparities, gender and race disparities, or health outcomes.
What excites you about the future of education?
January 9th, 2014 I went to the Children and Youth Issues Briefing in Saint Paul. There were 1,000 people registered! Minnesota seems to be on the verge of a perfect storm of a common sense of responsibility, passion, urgency and eagerness to work together. I’m hopeful for what our community makes happen.
What educational experience from your own life informs/impacts your daily work?
An incredible village raised and mentored me- family, friends, parents of friends, teachers and other community members. I often think about how we can empower families, programs, schools and communities so all children and youth have an opportunity for similar support.
What does it mean to be a leader?
A strong leader empowers and supports those around them, is willing to learn and demonstrates vulnerability.
If you could offer a piece of advice to Minnesota students, what would it be?
Be a part of the change you want to see- help us working in the education system understand your needs and how we can support you succeed.