Prince William County middle school teacher Atif Qarni, a former U.S. Marine and native of Pakistan, will be Virginia’s next secretary of education.
Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) is scheduled to appear at Beville Middle School at 1 p.m. today to personally make the announcement. The selection of Qarni, who teaches eighth-grade civics at the Dale City middle school, coincides with Northam’s goal to involve educators at the highest level of his administration, said Northam press secretary Ofirah Yheskel.
“The governor-elect has said during the campaign that it was very important to have an educator’s perspective and that educators should be at the table shaping education policy,” Yheskel said.
Yheskel said Northam has been interviewing “quite a few people” for the top job in the state’s education department. He is scheduled to announce two deputy education secretaries today, Yheskel said.
In 2013, Qarni, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully against Del. Bob Marshall, R-13th, and to replace retiring state Sen. Chuck Colgan in 2015, a race that he lost to current state Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-29th in the primary that year.
Qarni immigrated to Baltimore with his family when he was 10, enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves before graduating from high school in 1996 and worked three jobs to pay his way through George Washington University. During this time at college, he became a U.S. citizen and graduated with degrees in sociology and history.
Qarni remained a Marine Reservist for eight years and was among the first group of Marines to reach Baghdad during the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Qarni worked in a Washington law firm for eight years and earned a master’s degree in history from George Mason University. He said he considered going to law school to become a military lawyer, but decided he’d rather be in the classroom. Qarni has taught both middle school math and adult GED classes in Prince William County Schools since 2007.
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