The Abbotsford News is honoured to profile 2022 “Heroes in Education” from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us by our readers. “Heroes in Education” is graciously sponsored by Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, University of the Fraser Valley, BE Power Equipment, Valley Laser Eye Centre and the City of Abbotsford.
It’s a position like no other in Canada, and it never would have been created if Andrea Senft hadn’t been the kind of person to never shy away from a challenge.
Unhappy with the way the school district was distributing funding they had recently received back in 2006, Senft, then the executive director of the Abbotsford Early Childhood Committee, decided to voice her displeasure.
“They said, ‘If you think you can do better, come work here.’ “
She gladly accepted the offer and the position of manager of community partnerships within the Abbotsford School District was created.
“There’s no other one like it in Canada,” she said. “The school district was very forward thinking.”
And her work ever since, building relationships between the district, community non-profits, and business is the reason Abbotsford School Trustee Shirley Wilson nominated Senft as a Hero in Education.
“You need the right person for that job; it takes a certain kind of person with the right heart,” Wilson said. “And she has heart. She has heart.”
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There is no better example of Senft’s “heart” than her efforts to bring a bit of joy to Barrowtown Elementary students after the historic November flood. Told by the school’s principal that the students were struggling, Senft immediately jumped into action.
“I told her to give me an hour,” Senft said.
Too expensive to cater, Senft reached out to Abbotsford Senior to host and cook a Christmas dinner. Through her vast network of local resources, Senft managed to secure a present and gift card for every student. She also reached out to her friends to help serve the meal.
“Santa Claus and the Grinch came,” she said fondly recalling the event she made possible. “It gave the kids a sense of normalcy.”
Wilson was also invited to the dinner.
“It was quite heartening to see these kids have dinner with their brothers and sisters and family,” she said. “Andrea is hardworking every day, but in a crisis she goes above and beyond. The historic November flood was just the latest one.”
Senft has a simple philosophy that guides her as a resident of Abbotsford.
“I’ve always said you can’t complain about your community if you’re not doing something about it,” she said.
In her position as manager of community partnerships, Senft spends a lot of time grant writing, but it’s the relationships she builds within the community that are the most rewarding.
“I have the best job in the world,” she said. “It’s so cool and I get paid to do this.”
Senft has been with the school district for the past 10 years. Her commitment to the community also sees her involves with the Abbotsford Community Foundation (chair), the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, Vibrant Abbotsford and SARA for Women Society.
“She’s really involved in our community,” Wilson said. “She knows where the needs are; she can focus on them. Her heart is really in this community. She just steps right up.”