More than Jennifer “Jenni” VanCuren’s name was called while taking dual-enrolled classes at Laurel Ridge.
The Warren County homeschooler was taking the classes while still in high school to get a jump start on her college studies. She was in retired English and Speech Professor Andrea Ludwick’s class when she realized she wanted to be the one taking attendance.
And, it was while in Professor Brent Kendrick’s English classes that she realized that was the subject she wished to teach.
“I saw he was having so much fun,” VanCuren said. “I realized this is it. If I’m being called to teaching, it’s got to be English.”
She decided she wanted to teach at Laurel Ridge one day. That day came in 2010.
VanCuren graduated from Laurel Ridge in 2006 with a degree in liberal arts. She transferred to Old Dominion University, but was able to stay on the Laurel Ridge campus to take her classes through distance classes offered as part of Laurel Ridge’s partnership with ODU. Being able to stay where she was and keep her job at the time was a huge cost-savings.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in professional writing from ODU, VanCuren went on to earn a master’s degree in teaching writing and literature from George Mason University.
The English professor teaches English composition, American literature, technical writing and honors humanities classes. She can’t decide which class is her favorite to teach.
“Each class has its own magic and energy with each group of students bringing new experiences, expectations and personalities to the course,” she said. “The varied material keeps things fresh, as do the students.”
VanCuren loves hearing from past students.
“When a former student reaches out to me to let me know their accomplishments and achievements and the goals they’re meeting, and then tells me that it is because of something they learned in my class or because I somehow inspired them, that is the best feeling,” she said. “That is what teachers want – to help their students grow and achieve their dreams.”
Besides her teaching duties, VanCuren is heavily involved with Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. She is co-advisor for Phi Theta Kappa at Laurel Ridge and regional coordinator for the society’s chapters in Virginia and West Virginia.
An avid reader in childhood, VanCuren grew up wanting to be a writer.
“My family used to tease me because I would sit down and create extra writing assignments in school for myself,” she said. “I had a bunch of kids’ versions of classic books. I would read them and talk about them with whoever was willing to listen.
“I would write short stories and then fold them to make them look like actual library books. I would play library and force my parents or siblings to check out my book. I’ve known since I was little that I wanted to write a book so I could check myself out of the library.”
This dream came true when VanCuren published a book, “When Shadows Fade,” several years ago and was able to go check her book out of various libraries.
“I’m actually working on final edits of my second novel,” she said. “Once I finish the second book, I will have accomplished what I had originally set out to do. Now, I think it’s a really fun time in my life where I get to figure out what are my next steps, where am I headed to next.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.