12 April 2017

Anne ConstantA native of Norfolk, Virginia, Anne Constant dreamed in high school of being a Hoo. When she graduated in 1967 women were not yet being admitted to the College, so she went to Duke instead. She got her wish a few years later, though, when she was admitted to the Curry School for its master’s program in English education.

“Charlottesville is heaven on earth in my book,” she said. She wanted to stay after completing her degree, but no teaching jobs were available in the area. Instead, she went to Virginia Beach and taught AP and regular English classes at Kempsville High School. Her Curry School training served her well, and at age 26, with only two years of teaching experience, she was offered the newly created position of curriculum specialist in English for the school division’s middle and high schools.

In this position she often attended education conferences, where she one day ran across Joe Strzepek, her English education professor at Curry. He suggested she come back for a doctorate degree, and the graduate teaching fellowship he offered sealed the deal.
Both avid runners, she and Strzepek held more than one advising meeting on the move. She encountered many career-enhancing opportunities, including part-time work with the Bureau of Educational Research, where she edited ongoing research projects and worked with state administrators in Richmond.

“I was not a typical doctoral student, though” Anne remembers.  She could not see her way forward in academia, especially in light of the scarcity of attractive job options at the time, and she was fascinated by issues outside the typical English education research. She remembers some good counsel from another professor: “You do what you need to do to fulfill your own dreams.”
Anne took his advice, and her career path took a winding course through educational writing and editing, program management and evaluation, training and program development in several not-for-profit organizations  and management consulting in the private sector. Her employers ranged from the National Education Association and the National Alliance of Business to Logicon and Ernst and Young.

The common thread throughout her career, she believes, has been her Curry education—the Socratic method of questioning to stimulate critical thinking, the leadership skills from her administration and supervision courses, the fundamentals of curriculum development, and the research skills so critical in program design and consulting. All were instrumental in enabling her to grow and evolve professionally in a wide variety of professional opportunities.

She also believes current doctoral students should know what she learned: “A lot of places exist where they can apply the skills they learned at Curry, and the world needs people trained to think, analyze and communicate the way any good teacher would,” she said.

Because she recognizes the impact Curry has had in her life, Anne has been giving back to the Curry School Foundation for more than three decades.

“If others hadn’t given, I wouldn’t have gotten that teaching fellowship and probably wouldn’t have gone back for my doctorate,” she said. “Somebody believed in me, and it’s my pleasure to do the same for those coming after me.”

Back in the 1980s she gave what she could—$10, $15, $25 gifts. For a decade now she has been supporting Curry at the Dean’s Circle level.

“Nobody gets where are they totally on their own,” she acknowledged. “Everyone gets help somewhere along the way, and everyone has something to give back.”

Anne’s last professional turn after retiring from corporate life was opening and operating a successful Jazzercise Fitness Center in Falls Church, which she recently sold. She continues to teach Jazzercise and loves biking and traveling. She does animal rescue volunteering and some political fundraising and has also served, from time to time, on several non-profit boards, including the National Capital Area Alzheimer’s Association.

Even in her personal activities, she sees a thread back to Curry: “Teachers, consultants, trainers, volunteers,” she explained, “we're all change agents after a fashion, trying to improve upon and create opportunities for growth and fulfillment.”

by Lynn Bell

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