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Pilar Beccar-Varela

“Eclectic, interesting, super smart, caring, wonderful people.”
GSE Program: 
MA program in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies (POLS)
Oakland, CA
BA in Urban Studies, Bryn Mawr College

What would you highlight about your experience so far in POLS?

One of the most satisfying things about my fall quarter was that I was able to make meaningful connections from one course to another. My readings from one course informed my thinking in other courses. My papers from one course influenced my discussions in another. Between History of School Reform, Intro to Qualitative Research, Culture Learning and Poverty, and the POLS seminar, the learning felt really interrelated, which created a wonderful sense of purpose and cohesion.

Tell us a bit about your favorite course.

Though it’s a bit hard to choose because my fall courses were all so interesting, I would have to say that the History of School Reform was indispensable. The readings, lectures and rigorous writing requirements informed and pushed my thinking in important ways and laid a strong foundation for the rest of the year.

How would you describe the other POLS students?

Eclectic, interesting, super smart, caring, wonderful people.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree in POLS?

In looking toward the next steps of my professional life, I wanted to take a year out of the workplace to deepen my understanding and formalize my learning in a field I have been in since graduating college (20 years ago!).

What were you doing prior to applying to the GSE?

For the previous eight years, I had been the language arts coordinator, literacy coach and classroom teacher in an independent bilingual school in Oakland.

Photo of Pilar Beccar-Varela

Why Stanford?

I was initially attracted to Stanford because of its reputation as one of the best GSE programs in the country. The POLS program seemed open and varied enough to allow for unexpected opportunities and new interests to emerge, but also made it possible for me to tailor the program to my primary interests (instructional leadership within elementary school settings).

What’s something fun that you do to relax?

Sing, hike, play in a Japanese taiko-drumming troupe, and spend time with my kids.

What are your career plans?

I would like to continue to be involved in instructional leadership in a Pre-K through grade 5 setting (primarily interested in public and/or charter but I also have experience with private schools). What excites me is guiding and thinking together with teachers about the process of learning and teaching — in the classroom with their students as well as within the faculty culture.

This interview was conducted via email in February and March 2016.

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