In this interview, she looks back on her time at Bètapartners.
Why do we need a network like Bètapartners?
“It’s very important that higher education knows what’s happening ‘on the student supply side’, if you will, that the divide between secondary and higher education is bridged and that people from both sides seek each other out and are aware of what’s going on. Teachers have to actually come together in the same physical space, even if it’s just one day a year, to attend classes or lectures in their fields. Both sides have to make an effort to connect.
The teacher is central to the work we do at Bètapartners. I have a background in education theory, and I manage Bètapartners based on educational principles proven by scientific research – focusing on the teacher is one of those principles. The only truly important factor in education is the teacher. Everything else is noise.”
Looking back on 13 years as programme manager at Bètapartners, what are you most proud of?
“I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve built a sustainable and thriving network, which is of added value to all the parties involved in it. I have the best job there is and I lead a great team, but it’s the right moment for me to step down. To stay effective, a network like this needs a fresh perspective from time to time – it has to stay dynamic. I don’t have that fresh perspective anymore. We’re now seeing that alpha and gamma partners are joining the various beta networks in the Netherlands. That’s a big change, something for the new programme manager to sink their teeth into.”
Were there any moments or events that you’ll never forget?
“I’ll always remember the annual Bètapartners conference, which was first held in 2008. It’s such a great event by and for teachers, from both secondary and higher education. They come together for one day to share their knowledge and expertise with each other, focusing entirely on the substance of their work. Science teachers are crazy about their profession: they will often talk about their subjects with passion and enthusiasm, and students can sense that. Textbooks can be quite boring, but a passionate teacher can really make a difference. I’m glad Bètapartners is fostering that passion with this conference.”
Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor, Jeroen Maréchal?
“As programme manager, you have to constantly defend Bètapartners’ right to exist, because a network like this isn’t a given. Getting that message across was especially difficult during the pandemic. A lot of hard work has gone into putting Bètapartners on the map, but as programme manager you’ll have to keep explaining what we do, both in secondary and higher education. You must continue to highlight shared goals among the partners. The biggest shared goal – making sure that every student thrives – has to be front and centre, or else the whole thing falls apart. But don’t worry, Jeroen knows all this very well! Most of all, I hope that he will enjoy the work, and that he’s excited about his new role.”
How are you planning to spend your extra free time?
“I’m slowly starting to find more time for my hobbies: sailing, ice skating, nature drawing – especially birds. But I’m not fully retiring quite yet. For the next year or two, I’ll be spending two days a week working on connection projects for VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science. I’m 65 now, but I’m not ready to just stay home all day. So when I was offered the opportunity to phase out gradually instead of ending my working life from one day to the next, I grabbed it with both hands.”
Also read the welcome interview with Jeroen Maréchal, Agnes' successor.