Photo by Dustin Perry
A dedication ceremony for Valerie R. Garza was held Friday at Arnn Elementary
School for the first-grade teacher, who died
May 6. Teachers and students recalled their memories of Garza and later
dedicated two trees and a bench in her honor.
A dedication ceremony for Valerie R. Garza was held Friday at Arnn Elementary School for the first-grade teacher, who died
May 6. Teachers and students recalled their memories of Garza and later dedicated two trees and a bench in her honor.
Valerie R. Garza, a first-grade teacher at
Arnn Elementary School, was described as
“genuine,” “dedicated” and “memorable”
by fellow faculty members, students and
parents who paid tribute to her memory
during a ceremony Friday.
Following the many heartfelt anecdotes
that recalled the life and career of Garza, a
pair of dogwood trees was planted on the
campus next to a wooden bench bearing
her name to serve as a permanent reminder
of the educator’s lasting and far-reaching
influence.Photo by Dustin PerrySue Morin, left, principal of Arnn Elementary School, gives remarks Friday at the school during a dedication ceremony for Valerie R. Garza, a first-grade teacher there who died May 6. Two dogwood trees were planted next to a bench in her honor.Garza died May 6 at Tokyo Metropolitan
Hiroo Hospital from complications related
to a pre-existing heart arrhythmia condition,
according to a Department of Defense
Education Activity news release. She was
32 years old.
The principal at Arnn told those in attendance
that Garza’s legacy would continue
to fill students’ and faculty members’ days
with “her loving thoughts, her warm smiles,
her signature looks, and her love for children
“Imagine the memories that we will
continue to reflect and keep, share and celebrate,
and embrace and keep close,” said
Sue Morin during her remarks. “Imagine our
Mrs. Garza, knowing that we are all here
today, finding the courage to share some of
the many things that we will always love
Garza, a former social worker, began
teaching at Arnn in 2003. She quickly built a
reputation as a compassionate and dedicated
educator, Morin said in the DoDEA release.
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,
Garza and her husband Alex established the
Isaiah Institute, a charitable organization
that raised money to help people living in
affected areas of the island of Sri Lanka.
“When I think of Mrs. Garza, I immediately
think of her being … in her element
at Arnn,” the principal continued at the
ceremony. “Magic and acceptance always
filled Mrs. Garza’s classroom. No matter
if you were a student, a parent volunteer, a
co-teacher, or one who happened to walk
by her classroom – any time, any day – you
felt that presence.”
Several of Garza’s current and former students attested to her warm and caring nature and shared memories and experiences from their time spent in her classroom.
“My first teacher in Japan was Mrs. Garza,” one student said. “She was a very nice teacher. She had a bright and cheerful smile every day. Mrs. Garza made me look forward to coming to school each day.”
“Mrs. Garza was a very cool person; she was an angel,” added another. “We all dressed up and princes and princesses [today] because we think of Mrs. Garza as a princess. She loved to teach, she loved to smile, and she loved to party.”
Morin praised Garza’s dedication to her students, as well as the unique and all-inclusive approach she took when teaching them.
“To be different was an expectation of Mrs. Garza,” said Morin. “So if you were the Artist, the Reader, the Mathematician, the Scientist, the Geographer, the Musician, the Athlete, the Thinker, or even the Tinkerer, every student made up a wonderful mosaic of learners in her classroom every school year.”
A musical tribute was held after the planting of the trees and the bench dedication. A local gospel choir sang a song, followed by the playing of the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World” medley – one of Garza’s favorites – by Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Finally, the crowd was encouraged to participate in the “Freeze Dance,” a signature activity in Garza’s classroom.
Garza was “a master of her craft” and will be “a very-much missed member of our learning community,” concluded Morin.
Garza is survived by her husband Alex and their 2-year-old son Israel, her parents Charles and Deborah Glover, and her siblings Kimberly, Joanna and David.