Virginia’s first lady Pamela Northam is no stranger to the classroom, and with the help of United Way, she will be visiting several of them over the next few days. 

“I have a wonderful job as the first lady of Virginia, but I really miss my classrooms especially this time of year, having new children come on the first day is like opening a great gift,” said Northam. 

Northam is visiting early childhood education centers and elementary schools and discussing the importance of school readiness, which she says begins way before kindergarten.

“Most of us have memories of buying school supplies maybe an exciting new lunch box, but really school readiness is about so much more than that, it begins many years earlier when the brain develops about 90 percent before we get into kindergarten,” said Northam. 

Thea Thomas, director of Apple Country Head Start, said she experienced the benefits of focusing on early childhood education and development, and she is glad Northam is advocating for it.  

“We also introduced their education portion through play , so they’re very excited, I know Mrs. Northam ,one showed her a helicopter they built in a tower in one class, and they’re very excited to understand that they are learning patterns and math by just playing.” Thomas says. 

 Northam spent most of the day reading and playing with students. She also meet with several  school officials to discuss the successes and challenges they have faced when it comes to providing early childhood education in their divisions. 

“In Richmond at a very high level, she’s probably only getting some of the information, but to come locally and to hear from the boots on the ground, is really important,” said Nadine Pottinga of United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. 

“We are training the brains of the future workforce of tomorrow so the investment that we make on our children today is so important for all of our futures.” 

The first lady plans to visit the commonwealth’s eight superintendent’s regions by September 13.