I first met Juanita Jo Matkins over 25 years ago when she was teaching a class for the Virginia Extension Office on Heart Healthy Recipes. I didn’t realize at the time that she was a teacher for many years at Piedmont Christian and Jouett Elementary teaching science and gifted education. In fact, she won a national award in for her teaching – the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.
I was busy working and raising a family at Blue Ridge Shores so our paths did not cross again for a few years. After my kids got to high school, I became a graduate student at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Juanita Jo was an Associate Professor there teaching Science Education. UVa is pretty selective about hiring professors so I was impressed that a fellow Louisan had a position on the staff.
Fast forward a few more years. My husband and I had been to many of the Christmas Cantatas and other special events at Yanceyville Christian Church over the years and we liked the church so we decided to join. At that time, Juanita Jo was a church elder and she led the liturgy service every Sunday. I was impressed with the church for accepting a woman as a church leader and impressed with Juanita Jo for bringing intelligence, passion, and a sense of grace to the weekly ceremony.
My husband and I attended church there for many years and Juanita Jo was a church trustee was an active member of the Sunday School, always bringing new ideas and concerns to the conversation. Like my husband who was a physicist for the Army at Ft. Belvoir, Juanita Jo was a commuter to her job in Northern Virginia as an assistant professor at George Mason University. They shared many “road warrior” stories about Northern Virginia’s traffic problems and relished the fact that they could enjoy a home in rural Louisa.
Over the next few years, we got to know Juanita Jo and her husband, Don Short, former Commonwealth Attorney for Louisa County. Juanita Jo was an avid horsewoman as a young woman and her family had a small horse farm in Louisa County. Juanita Jo helped her father breed, train and show horses.
One summer, Juanita Jo came by our farm to catch some frogs from our pond for her summer session at William and Mary training science teachers how to do hands-on science in the lab. Along with a fellow professor, she had written and was administering several multi-million dollar grants to develop techniques to train teachers to upgrade K-12 science curriculums all over the country.
She retired in 2015 from William and Mary University as a Full Professor. But retirement did not mean resting on her laurels. She served on the Louisa County Zoning Commission. She joined a county gospel choir. She helped found the Louisa Chapter of Spread the Vote and worked to register new voters. At church, she took on the job of full-time organist. With other members of the church, she helped found the Yanceyville Summer Nature Camp for children.
Juanita Jo Matkins has been a resident of Louisa County for many, many years. She taught in the schools. She raised her family here. She worked at many universities but she always made her home in Louisa. She has been an active member of the community for most of her life.
Now she is running as a candidate for the Virginia 56th House of Delegates, which includes all of Louisa County. She will work to improve and keep our schools and state universities top notch. She is determined to help bring broadband and decent internet service to our rural communities. She believes that everyone should have access to good health care. If you want someone who will represent our interests in Richmond, then vote for a Louisan. Cast your vote on Nov. 1st for Juanita Jo Matkins for 56th House of Delegates. She’s got your back.
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