WILMINGTON — Samantha Varano has spent the entirety of her 18 years in education in public schools, but she is excited to begin a new venture at the Lower School at Ursuline Academy — and to be closer to home.
Varano, 40, arrived at Ursuline this summer from Thomas Edison K-8 School in Boston, which had been her home for the past 22 years. The Delaware County, Pa., native attended Wheelock College in the Hub before becoming a teacher in the Boston Public Schools for 18 years. She said it was just time for her and husband Fred to come back to the Delaware Valley, this time with sons Dominic and Daniel.
“I absolutely loved my time there,” she said of Boston. “In the time that I was there, I started a family. My husband is from Philly, South Philly, and we had our two sons. They’re both old enough that we said it’s time to come back to where family is, so that’s why we moved back.”
The interview process began last winter, and Varano was able to spend a day observing at Ursuline before schools closed. She wasn’t too familiar with the school, but it didn’t take long for her to know that it would be the right fit.
“The whole entire day that I was on campus, it just felt really right. There was a really positive energy on the campus. The people here are wonderful to work with. It just struck me that this is a really good place, filled with good people who want to do good things for kids,” she said.
“Immediately, something attracted me to the school. It had a lot of the values and beliefs that I tried to hold true to in my school that I worked in for the last 18 years.”
A lot of Ursuline reminded her of her own Catholic school experience. Varano grew up in Lansdowne, Pa., and attended Holy Child Academy in Drexel Hill and the all-girls Merion Mercy Academy in Merion Station. After her time at Wheelock College, which is now part of Boston University, she earned a master’s degree at Boston U. She also did some postgraduate studies at Boston College, whose softball field sits next to the Edison School parking lot. Varano recalled collecting softballs and returning them to the college.
Varano was principal for five years at Edison and an assistant principal and teacher before that. That school has about 600 students and is very diverse racially, medically and academically.
“I’m used to a lot of moving parts, so this is very different, but every school has its challenges,” she said.
Her first impressions of the Lower School were about opportunities. She hopes that once the pandemic is a memory and things are more normal, the Lower School will continue to grow. Varano is thinking about some curriculum changes to make the academic experience more rigorous, along with improvements in science and engineering programming, “all of which is possible here.”
Right now, they’re focused more on getting the kids back to routine. She credits her faculty and staff — with whom she has been meeting online since March — for being so helpful.
“They are leaning into this challenge that we have right now. Naturally, there is some concern, some anxiety. I think that’s fair. I think we’re all feeling that to some degree. More than anything, I have seen support and ‘what do we have to do?’” she said.
Varano did not necessarily have a Catholic school in mind when she began her job search, and Wilmington wasn’t really on the family’s radar. But, she said, they like their new city and are looking for a home nearby while staying with family members. Her sons both will attend Ursuline, which will be a new experience for all three.
In her time away from the classroom, Varano loves going to the beach and being outdoors with her family. They have been fortunate to be able to spend some time in Sea Isle City, N.J., this summer with family members. Those outings are a great opportunity to “take myself away from technology.”