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Fall 2010

Corinne Varon-Green, C.A.S.'95, Ed.D.'04, is doing her best to finish her career with a bang.

corinne_varon.jpgNearly 40 years ago, Corinne Varon-Green, C.A.S.'95, Ed.D.'04, was sitting on a park bench on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston when she met a poet. Varon-Green, a painter who had just emigrated from Peru, was still finding her bearings in her new country and asked the stranger how a person could make a living as an artist. The poet suggested substitute teaching -- it offered great flexibility for an artist to work on her craft. This simple suggestion would lead Varon-Green to what would become her career: education.

Varon-Green spent the next two decades teaching in Boston and Cambridge before she began her doctoral studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The same year, she left the classroom to become district coordinator for the bilingual in English language acquisitions and programs in Cambridge. Varon-Green loved teaching, but she knew the coordinator position would bring better pay and would provide a better platform from which to strengthen cultural awareness in the community.

As a coordinator in what she calls the "golden age of bilingual education," Varon-Green helped to create many language education curriculums, including kindergarten programs taught in Chinese, Korean, and Haitian-Creole with French. Then, in November 2002, a ballot initiative passed requiring that all public classrooms be taught in English. Varon-Green's bilingual programs disintegrated.

"That was the hardest disappointment I have ever had in my life," she says.

Two years ago, Varon-Green returned to teaching at the Amigos School, where she had taught for 10 years earlier in her career. Amigos is a two-way English and Spanish immersion school in Cambridge that fosters multicultural relationships.

And she is glad to be back. "Returning to the classroom has brought community to my life again," she says. "As a school administrator I was very isolated. I didn't meet the parents, I didn't meet the kids." She admits the curriculum is more regimented, putting a strain on teachers' structure. "I have to be economical with my time," she explains, so she incorporates her passion for the arts into her second-graders' math lessons by having them create three-dimensional models of cities.

She also keeps her students engaged through Reading Buddies, a program that recruits staff and students from the Ed School to volunteer time once a week for the length of the academic year to read to an Amigos student. All the books are provided by Harvard and handpicked by the second-graders.

"The relationships are precious," says Varon-Green. "The children look forward to [it] like I've never seen. They don't look forward to anything else -- not even a field trip!"