Our students can be so insightful, articulate, and wise. And because I teach writing across a wide age range, I have the satisfaction of witnessing their remarkable progress over just a few short years.”

Peggy Verkest

Writing & Grammar
VDA Teacher since 2008

Tell me a little about your personal and educational background.
I received my teaching credential from Eastern Michigan University. I moved to Southern California from Michigan in 1997, and I took a job as a 4th grade teacher at the private school attended by my three children. I taught there for many years before learning about VanDamme Academy. I researched the school and found that it suited my goals as a teacher better than any environment I had encountered, so when a position became available, I made the move.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. The oldest of five, I used to ask my younger siblings to be my students as I played their teacher in the basement of our home. However, as I was applying to college, I was told by my father and my high school counselor that I was “too smart” to be a teacher, especially after I was awarded a full academic scholarship to attend Wayne State University in Detroit. So, under their influence, I enrolled as an accounting/business major. As the first semester of my junior year drew to a close, I was determined to maintain my 4.0 GPA and had diligently prepared for finals. One day, as I was driving to school for an exam on a typical Michigan snowy December morning (I remember it vividly), I suddenly decided to turn my car around and go home and wrap Christmas presents instead. I was overcome by the realizations, “I hate accounting!” and “This is not something I do not want to do the rest of my life!” I gave up a scholarship and a perfect transcript to fulfill my personal ambition to become a teacher, and I have never regretted it.

If you specialize in a particular subject area, why did you choose that specialty?
I absolutely LOVE teaching writing! I so enjoy the thoughts and enthusiasm that the students are able to express in their writing. I enjoy teaching them tools to use when communicating those thoughts, because our students can be so insightful, articulate, and wise. And because I teach writing across a wide age range, I have the satisfaction of witnessing their remarkable progress over just a few short years.

What brought you to VanDamme Academy?
I had become frustrated by the emphasis other schools placed on state standards and standardized testing for elementary students. I felt that I was not truly teaching knowledge, but merely spoon-feeding facts to these young children so that they would do well on testing and the school could obtain a new “honor” and accreditation. Writing was placed on the back burner because it was not part of the standardized test or a major part of state standards, but I felt it was a deeply important part of the curriculum. I was delighted when I learned about VanDamme Academy’s philosophy and the emphasis placed on writing, so I visited and spoke with Ms. VanDamme. Luckily, there was a spot for me the following school year.

Do you have any favorite stories about your teaching experience?
Many!!! I just enjoy the innocent comments from the children that make me turn around to stifle a laugh! For instance, I was once working on a story with a five-year-old who was writing about a “really old” whale. When I ask her how old he was, she said “49.” The look on her face when I told her that I was 49 was priceless and still makes me smile. The time one of my students asked me how to spell “ATM” also still makes me giggle.

Do you have children of your own?
I have 3 beautiful children whom I adore, Elizabeth, who is soon getting married; Anthony, who graduated from Berkeley and is working for a semiconductor company in Aliso Viejo; and Michael, who is an Agricultural Business major at Cal Poly and will graduate in 2014!