Top Teachers: Lourie Sledd
Freeman H.S., exceptional education
Lourie Sledd feels fortunate to be among a group of special exceptional education teachers in Henrico County.
But the parents of the students she’s taught feel fortunate that she’s been looking out for their children.
Sledd has spent her entire teaching career – more than two decades – in Henrico. She was inspired to work with intellectually disabled students by her sister, who taught such students in Henrico and Richmond before becoming a guidance counselor at Cosby High School in Chesterfield, where she works today.
Sledd landed at Freeman when it began its full-time program for intellectually disabled students 10 years ago.
Students in the program suffer from a range of disabilities, so she works to find ways to reach each one effectively. The program combines core academics with vocational and life skills. Some of her students also take mainstream elective courses at the school.
“Without Lourie’s leadership,” one nominator wrote, “the students in her class would be very isolated. Instead, they are part of the fabric of Freeman -- young people who attend plays, football games, talent shows; young people who have jobs all over the school and in the community; young people who have the opportunity to make connections with their peers and teachers all day long.”
That, according to Sledd, is her goal every day.
“My kids, I just see them every day walking through the door, and I think about the obstacles they must face before they walk through that door,” Sledd said. “Their bravery, all the challenges they face just keep me going.”
But she’s adamant that what she does is no more significant that what dozens of others of teachers in the county do.
“I am only one of 100 exceptional ed teachers who should get this [recognition], and I really mean this,” she said. “I know many special ed teachers who work late every day and then work all weekend.”
Sledd helped create the Career Pathways Club at Freeman, a program that allows mainstream and disabled students to work side by side selling spirit items in school and at sporting events while developing real-world business skills at the same time. She also is heavily invested in the all-star basketball league, which matches teams of disabled students from county high schools against each other in weekly basketball games.
To Sledd, the most visible change during her time as an educator has been the way that mainstream students have accepted and welcomed special education students into their lives. At Freeman, one of her students even was crowned homecoming king.
“That’s what they want more than anything, is friends,” Sledd said. “They’re just part of the gang now.”
Students with certain intellectual disabilities are permitted to stay in high school until the age of 22.
As a result, Sledd has taught some students for as long as seven years. She considers the best part of her job to be the realization that she’s helped her students thrive in school – and in life.
“They come in as immature teenagers and leave as young adults,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling knowing that you helped them along the way. Many of them will get jobs, be productive citizens and hopefully lead happy lives. Being part of that is very special.
“They’re just amazing kids. I get strength from them.”
Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.
YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.
The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.
Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.
The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.
As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.
The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.
The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.
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