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UTA graduates apply their leadership education to Arlington fine arts academy

dean corey admins

The top administrators at Dean P. Corey Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language in Arlington know better than most the inherent benefits in getting a degree in Educational Leadership from UTA. Principal Matt Varnell and Assistant Principal Manuel Treviño are both graduates of UTA’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and they put their skills to use every day as they develop and implement the philosophy behind their unique campus.

“This school represents a fantastic opportunity to bring my worlds together,” Dr. Varnell said as he described the school’s focus. “We are a fine arts and dual language academy here at Corey. What that means is our children are learning in both English and Spanish every day. They also get an opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese as they get a little bit older. We have music, P.E., art, piano, dance, theater and orchestra. So all of our kids have these tremendous opportunities. It is a public school in every sense of the word.”

After studying trumpet and education at UTA, Dr. Varnell began his career in education as a music educator and had a successful career for a number of years. But he found that he wanted more. He eventually returned to UTA to get his certification for administration.

“In my administrative career, I was able to become a member of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies cohort working on my principal certification,” he said. “I even returned for my Ph.D. I enrolled in that program and looked at how those careers combined for me. I ended up doing my dissertation on the power of music as an instructional tool.”

Assistant Principal Manuel Treviño graduated with his Masters in Educational Policy Studies in 2013 with a dual language emphasis. He began his teaching career in Grand Prairie, where he taught 1st grade to 4th grade bilingual students for five years before returning to UTA to get his masters in the ELPS program.

Looking back, Treviño is especially grateful to Dr. Carla Amaro Jimenez. “She saw something in me that led me to pursue my masters in education and led me into becoming the assistant principal I am today. She always pushed me to grow even further.”

Treviño explained how students benefit from the structure at Corey Academy. “Students are able to make connections through various means, but the main thing is that when they discuss the arts and language together, particularly in Spanish, students are able to pull from what they know already.”

Dr. Varnell appreciates the unique nature of Corey Academy. “What a great opportunity Arlington ISD has given us,’ he said, “to bring together language and the arts, and to really celebrate the things that kids can be and to experiment with how much education can make a difference.

“We know that a traditional classroom has value,” he continued. “But there’s a question we ask here. We avoid asking ‘How smart are you?’ and instead ask “How are you smart?’ Changing the question assumes that every single person has talents, and we just need to find them.

“When I think about our future and the importance of the difference we make as educators, there is nothing more important than empowering kids, because it changes lives and changes generations.”