On a rainy and cold December morning in Manassas, Va., Anthony Vargas walks through the hallways with a big smile that remains in place as he reaches the class he is visiting.
“Hello friends!” he says to a group of 6th grade students while waving to them. “Good to see you!”
It is clear to me that Vargas, the supervisor of gifted and talented and advanced programs, loves his job and interacting with students. He gives his full attention to any student who is talking with him and is always ready with questions. During our visit, a class was preparing projects for a National History Day contest, and Vargas peppered the students with insightful questions and positive feedback, encouraging them to speak up and defend their work.
Vargas laughs, a lot, and it’s an attribute that seems to resonate with students. He comes across as a supportive cheerleader for all of them.
During our time together, we talked about how overseeing K-12 gifted and talent programs can be overwhelming, but that’s not how he sees it. He thrives in a role in which he’s able to interact with students from all different levels. He said he loves being able to get into a deep conversation in an AP class across the street and 10 minutes later talk with kindergarten students.
I was especially struck by Vargas’ endless enthusiasm and encouragement when he met with a shy 6th grade student who was preparing her National History Day project on the Rwandan genocide, a particularly difficult subject for any student, but especially for a 6th grader. The student’s mother is from Rwanda, and she wanted to do a project that honored her family and commemorated the civil war and genocide.
Vargas worked closely with her to increase her confidence, and asked a range of questions about not only her project, but also her family. The student, like all students whom Vargas interacted with, was immediately at ease with him and began to open up. As their time together wrapped up, he ended their conversation with, “You should be proud.”
I may have only spent a day with him, but it’s easy to see how lucky the students at Manassas public schools are to have Vargas as the supervisor of their gifted and talented program. I am sure his impact on their young lives will be felt for years to come.
— Valerie Plesch for Education Week