Dyslexic student makes unexpected career choice

By Elise Foster

Valencia Winston posing with her class.

“I hated high school, middle school and elementary school. In kindergarten, I cried every day,” said Valencia Winston as she recalled her experiences as a student in primary and secondary school. “I was frustrated because I had no idea that I was dyslexic until maybe my senior year of high school.”

Winston was the daughter of two educators, but was not the expected straight-A student.

“I often felt very lost in school. I felt that teachers and administrators treated me as more of a project than a person.”

Despite her learning challenge, Winston said she managed to earn average grades as a student.

After her high school graduation, Winston promised herself that she would get far away from high schools. She aspired to work in a career closely linked with the music industry and declared her major in telecommunications. Four years later, she obtained her degree from Alabama A&M University and moved to Atlanta with the intention to work in radio.

She ended up working at a treatment facility for violent youth offenders and disliked it because it reminded her of school. However, Winston’s determination to work in entertainment did not fade. While working at the treatment facility, she began interning with BMG distribution, then the parent company of Laface, Arista and RCA records.

Six months later, she got a job with BMG distribution in Charlotte, North Carolina working as a field marketing representative.

“I loved it and did that job for 10 years in various states,” she said. “The reason I left was that I was about to be a mother. My mother had gotten very sick as well. So I came back to Tuscaloosa.”

When she returned to Tuscaloosa, she began searching for a job. A school principal her mother had worked for as a school counselor offered her a career in education. Winston took the position. Though she did not have a background in education, she completed a series of required online classes to become certified to teach film and media.

She became determined to be the kind of teacher she would have loved to have in high school.

“I make sure that I’m open to identifying where my students are struggling and keeping the class light and fun. I relax rules and trust that they can somewhat manage themselves. If and when things start to become problematic, I step in.”

“I make sure that I’m open to identifying where my students are struggling and keeping the class light and fun.

And her effort doesn’t go unnoticed by students.

“Ms. Winston is hilarious and not like other teachers because she takes a different approach to teaching, said student Jeffery Carpenter. “She finds a way to balance being entertaining and teaching at the same time. That’s something most teacher’s can’t do. She’s special and is like a mom to students. That is why she is everyone’s favorite teacher.”