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DoDEA Pacific mourns loss of gifted educator

For Immediate Release — May 11, 2011 | Pacific
: Public Affairs Officer | DSN: 644-5657


TOKYO, Japan (30 March 2011) Valerie R. Garza on stage with her class as part of the “Character Storybook Parade." (photo courtesy of Arnn ES/Released)

TOKYO, JAPAN — May 11, 2011 — Arnn Elementary School first-grade teacher Valerie R. Garza, 32, died May 6 at Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital following complications related to a medical emergency that occurred on May 1.

“Valerie always put children first—in her decision-making, planning, and efforts,” according to Arnn ES Principal Sue Morin, “When students were in her classroom and in and around the school, her sole focus remained children, giving them her undivided attention and genuine care.”

Garza began her Department of Defense Dependents Schools career as a Kindergarten teacher at Arnn ES in 2003 after an initial career in social work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and elementary certification from Oral Roberts University.

In addition to leading a vibrant classroom full of eager and active learners, Garza contributed to several school-wide activities including Children’s Theater, Multicultural Day and several others. Colleagues recalled how she made Read Across America Day especially delightful for children by dressing up as a story-book character and being “more real than the character itself.”

Her generous nature extended well beyond the school walls. Garza and her husband Alex were so moved by the tragic aftermath of the historic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, they established a charitable foundation called the Isaiah Institute to provide humanitarian aid, educational and social services, and container buildings to refugee camps in remote areas of Sri Lanka.

Morin said Garza was a self-reflective master teacher who was exceptionally dedicated to her students, “She always searched for new ideas and innovations to try with her students to keep them activated in their learning. She yearned for constructive feedback from peers and administrators so that she would ‘do right’ by her students and families.”

Garza is survived by her husband of 11 years, Alex, and their two-year old son Israel. She is also survived by her parents Charles and Deborah Glover and her siblings, Kimberly, Joanna, and David.

Arnn ES will host a “Prince and Princess Day” ceremony to honor Valerie Garza Friday at 2:45 p.m. The ceremony will be a fitting tribute to her zest for creative expression and special ability to bring out the very best in children. During learning breaks, her students would don pink tiaras and princely crowns as she led dance parties to an eclectic soundtrack of Rick Springfield, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson. The ceremony is open to the public. Please contact the school for additional information at 267-6602 or 0428-69-6602.

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DoDEA Pacific Public Affairs

Unit 35007
APO, AP 96376
DSN: 315-644-5657
From the States: 011-81-6117-44-5657

The initiates and manages DoDEA's communications and outreach efforts for the Pacific to include Guam, Japan, Okinawa, South Korea. The office is responsible for media relations, internal information programs and communication with students, parents, teachers, school administrators and the public.