Varga Dedicates Life, Class Project to Narrowing Achievement Gap

When Francesca Varga embarked on a class project for her Ball State building level administrator (BLAD) license, she wasn’t looking for a career change.

She enjoyed teaching high school English but knew that the growing population of Latino students and non-English speaking families in her building needed to feel a stronger connection to the school community.

After countless conversations with students and families, she designed a project that would not only bridge cultures but also close the achievement gap between majority and marginalized student populations.

Project Targeted Language Gaps

Using technology in strategic ways, the class exercise would help bridge language gaps by producing a Spanish-language newsletter for families, form parent groups to encourage parent participation, and celebrate cultures and diversity in the classroom.

Not only was her Ball State project designed to help close the achievement gap, it also led to a job offer from the University of Notre Dame, where today Francesca is associate director for blended learning with the university’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

ACE works in high-poverty Catholic schools serving underrepresented populations of students and many ELL (English language learner) students.

Part of High-Powered Learning Team

“My professors at Ball State were incredible and went above and beyond to connect with me through email and video chats,” says Francesca.

Francesca works with ACE’s Higher-Powered Learning team, leading a three-year program that guides teachers and school leaders through the “implementation of excellent and sustainable blended-learning programs” at various building sites.

She coaches teachers, building leaders, and principals on best practice, implementation of blended learning, so they can meet student learning gaps and provide student success strategies.

“The role I have now allows me to impact greater change for students in many schools as we work with schools in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Indianapolis,” says Francesca, noting that the program will soon expand to other areas.

The Classroom Children Deserve

Catholic identity drives the work of the Alliance for Catholic Education.

“Our team’s core belief is that every child is created in the image of God and deserves an education that reflects that,” she says.

Francesca thinks the BLAD licensure program has improved her instructional leadership skills, from learning how to do a thorough classroom walkthrough and evaluation to framing difficult conversations with teachers.

School Principal Class Taught Leadership

For her, Ball State’s School Principal class was a highlight of the licensure program.

“Everything was relevant to leadership, and I feel like I learned the most from that class,” she says.

“To be completely honest, I was shocked and quite overwhelmed with the first two weeks of the class. The workload was super rigorous,” she remembers. “But the instruction I received through this program was some of the best instruction I have ever received in my academic career.”

Francesca is also upbeat about Ball State’s online delivery.

Professors Kept Her Connected

“My professors at Ball State were incredible and went above and beyond to connect with me through email and video chats,” she says.

During her program, Francesca was teaching, raising a toddler, and pregnant with her second child. Email and video chats were perfect.