My experience as a private tutor and as a nanny has allowed me to feel essential in the development of children who have grown up to become wonderful people.”

Grace Duryée

Office Manager, Art Appreciation, & History
VDA Teacher Since 2015

Personal and Educational background:
I am a Southern Californian, born and raised. I was a classically trained actor for about ten years, appearing on small stages throughout Orange County in productions of both classical and musical theater. I graduated from nearby Aliso Niguel High School, and I am currently pursuing my degree in History with a minor in Literature. I have always been involved in some aspect of education or childcare. Since I was about 16, I’ve spent time as a live-in nanny, private tutor, and professional applier of Band-Aids.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I have wanted to become a teacher since I was a little girl. I made the decision out of love for my wonderful kindergarten teacher, whose inspiration has stuck with me until today, but my passion for education has been fueled by the satisfaction I receive when I feel that I have made a difference in the life of a child. My experience as a private tutor and as a nanny has allowed me to feel essential in the development of children who have grown up to become wonderful people. This feeling continues to encourage my passion for education, as well as my current journey through school. I feel so lucky to be a part of the staff of VanDamme Academy, which is the only place I have witnessed a passion for education that equals my own.

If you specialize in a particular subject area, why did you choose that specialty?
I’ve always been a literature fiend. Reading has been my favorite pastime since I was a little girl. I would always tell my favorite stories to anybody who would listen. When I acted up as a child, and my parents wanted to send me to my room, they always felt conflicted, because they knew that was exactly what I wanted to do—that was where my books were! History is my main area of study, however. It’s hard to trace my interest in history back to a specific moment or time in my life—it has seemed like an obvious area of study for as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt that I have a special, more personal understanding of history from reading old literature, and placing that literature within its historical context. I find that it is hard for a lot of people today to look back and see people in history as actual, real people, given their incredible accomplishments. But, that is part of what makes the study of history so wonderful—the constant innovation and heroism on the part of mankind throughout all of world history, and the evidence that we are capable of remarkable things. So, I guess you could say that my reasons for choosing literature and history as my areas of specialization are very much based on lifelong passions for storytelling and learning.

What brought you to VanDamme Academy?
I have been a fan of the school for quite some time, and was lucky enough to meet a few members of the VanDamme Academy faculty while working as a cashier at a local bookstore. These encounters were extremely exciting to me, since I longed to learn more about the school. Mr. Lewis eventually brought me in for a tour, which allowed me to see first-hand what children are capable of when they are armed with a quality education and a passion for learning. The one thought I kept returning to the whole day I sat in on VanDamme Academy classes was, “I never want to leave!” When I heard about a possible employment opportunity with the school, I immediately jumped on it—and now I get to be here every day! 

What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I mostly love to read. I spend a lot of time reading poetry (a huge passion of mine), and probably just as much time reading sword and sorcery type fantasy novels. I play lots of video games; my favorites are old games like the original Legend of Zelda and other adventure games. I also enjoy card and board games (like Magic: The Gathering and Settlers of Catan) involving all kinds of weird strategizing and crazy tactics.