Board Certified -- New Trustee Valerie Wayne brings an ideal... | Teachers College Columbia University

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Board Certified -- New Trustee Valerie Wayne brings an ideal resume to the Job

If you were designing the perfect TC Trustee, Valerie Wayne would be it. For starters, Wayne (M.A. ’98) earned her TC degree in social studies and education after three years in the federal government “because I knew I wanted to work in the classroom.” She served as a special education teacher at Harlem’s progressive Central Park East Secondary School and then absorbed an entirely different approach in Australia, where she worked with aboriginal children and students from immigrant families.

“They used direct instruction there,” she says. “It’s very phonics-based, and you work with a script- exercises, questions, drilling. I thought it was going to be terrible, but it was actually very effective.”

After volunteering for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Wayne also worked in the U.S. Department of Education- first for Deputy Secretary Madeleine Kunin, the former Governor of Vermont, and then for Terry Dozier, a former national Teacher of the Year who advised Education Secretary Richard Riley. Her focus: teacher profes¬sional development and the improvement of teacher preparation standards.
And yeah, Wayne is also a Rockefeller- the daughter of Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President and CEO of WETA, Washington, D.C.’s public television station. Valerie is also the cousin of TC Trustee Emerita Abby O’Neill, whose mother Abigal Aldrich was John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s only daughter. (John D. Rockefeller Sr. be it recalled, was a TC Trustee who endowed the College with a $500,000 gift in 1902.) As Chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, headquartered just a few blocks from Teachers College, Wayne was much in the news this fall when the Fund announced plans to begin divesting itself of fossil-fuel stocks to align its investments with its grant-making to fight climate change.

“There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” Wayne said in September on the eve of a United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York City, calling the decision to divest ”a natural progression” for her family that her famous forebear would have approved.

Wayne also serves as Vice Chair of the Asian Cultural Council and as a Trustee on the board of D.C. Preparatory Academy, a charter management organization in Washington. She’s also a former trustee of Spelman College, the nation’s leading historically black college for women.

All these experiences have left Wayne with strong ideas, particularly about education reform: that children need caring mentors and access to social services; that students thrive in small classrooms; that schools need more than just standardized test scores to measure students’ strengths and achievements; and that the United States needs a more equitable system for funding its public schools. But what’s per¬haps most striking about Wayne is that she join-ed TC’s Board mainly to learn.

“I’ve seen things from the classroom and federal policy perspectives, but less so from the leadership and ad-ministration perspective,” she says. “So I’m really excited, for example, to get more involved with the Teachers College Community School. I love that TC is bringing all its resources to bear, working with Columbia and other New York City resources. I’m also impressed by our involvement around the world. TC is doing it on every level.”

Which stands as a pretty good description of Valerie Wayne.

Published Monday, Feb. 9, 2015


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