Wisconsin native and longtime Hill resident Annie Varvari has joined Idyllwild Arts Academy’s full time faculty as resource teacher.
With degrees in special education and counseling, Varvari fills a key position, providing advocacy for and support to students with special classroom academic and logistical needs.
“Kids in resource have concerns,” said Varvari. “Those concerns could involve testing anxiety or medical issues that could require special accommodations in multi-hour testing situations such as college boards. Or it could be helping them with organizational and time management skills.”
Varvari explained she also acts as student advocate and liaison with other teachers, explaining student needs that could necessitate a departure from normal classroom procedure. “For instance, a student could have dysgraphia, a transcription disability that makes handwriting difficult,” she noted. “In that case, using a laptop in class could be what they need to succeed, and sometimes teachers might not allow that without knowing about the particular condition. In that case, I act as advocate to explain the condition and the need.”
Varvari also arranges tutors for students in subject areas where they need help. “My job is to resource anything the kids need,” she said. “Anything they need, I try to help them with that.”
Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and raised nearby in Nina, Varvari first went east to college, at Colby Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire. “Eventually I migrated west to Colorado, where I had always wanted to live,” she said. She obtained her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in special education: acoustically handicapped, at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
She received her master’s degree in counseling psychology from California State University, San Bernardino. She holds teaching credentials in special education and multiple subjects as well as a certificate of eligibility for education specialist instruction in moderate to severe disabilities.
But while in California she still longed for Colorado. “I remember my pastor [in Colorado] saying that if you want to be as close to Colorado as you can [in California], it is Idyllwild.” Varvari moved to Idyllwild in 1981 and then to Anza in 1990. “I wanted more room for my dogs,” she explained, “but I still think of Idyllwild as home.”
Varvari worked from 1986 to 2007 at Morning Sky School in Mountain Center. “I worked with the boys using behavioral modification techniques to extinguish negative behaviors and reinforce positive attributes,” she remembered. “The work was challenging and rewarding. It was really sad when the school closed.” Varvari then worked as substitute teacher at Hamilton High in Anza for seven years.
Interviewed in her office on campus at Birchard Writing and Resource Center, Varvari seemed happily ensconced and fully integrated into her new position. “I had not intended to work full time again,” said Varvari, “but when I got the call from Idyllwild Arts for the full time resource position, I said ‘yes.’ I’m honored that they asked me to work here.”