Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Spring Commencement keynote speaker Virginia Van Valzah: From learning disabilities to an "addiction to learning"


Virginia Van Valzah

Virginia Van Valzah has turned a learning disability into what she calls an “addiction to learning.”

The determined 26-year-old has battled ADHD and dyslexia since she was a child. When she enrolled at Germanna Community College, she applied advice from one of her teachers at James Monroe High School to break courses down into easily digestible chunks and spend a lot of time in the Tutoring Center.

 “Class sizes at Germanna are small enough that you get that one-on-one attention you need to thrive,” she says.

After earning her associate’s degree at Germanna in 2006, she went on to a bachelor’s in administrative justice at George Mason University in 2008 and a post bachelor’s certificate and master’s in criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. Using flash cards to study, she compiled a 3.7 grade point average at VCU.

She’s now a court security deputy for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office and a training officer.  This summer, she will begin teaching criminology at Germanna as an adjunct faculty member.

 “I’m addicted to learning and I’m trying to pass on my addiction to other people,” she says.

  As a training officer, she‘s already helped students one-on-one who might have struggled without that attention.

 “People do things differently and they learn differently,” she says. “I want to be the person who understands a learning disability. They could be the best at the job. They don’t know how to do it unless you help them, but they could be the best.”

 She grew up in Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fredericksburg. She currently lives in downtown Fredericksburg.

 Her mother, Cathy Van Valzah, has been a history teacher for over 25 years at Brooke Point High School in Stafford. Her father, Stuart Van Valzah, is an accountant who owns his own business. 

She said she has known she wanted to work in law enforcement since she was 7 years old. “When other girls were playing with dolls, I was playing cops and robbers,” she said. “I’ve always been kind of a tomboy.”

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