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Top Teachers: Samuel Turner

Holman M.S., sixth-eighth grades
Growing up, Samuel Turner always assumed that he would follow the family military tradition and end up in a job in which he designed or built airplanes, tanks and helicopters, or perhaps joined the Military Corps of Engineers.

But a Saturday morning during his senior year of high school changed all that.

Spending time at the Nottoway County home of his English teacher, the late John B. Cyrus, completely changed his perspective, said Turner. It was Cyrus – along with other teachers and principals he admired – who gave him an appreciation of the opportunity teachers have to make a difference in young lives.

Looking back, Turner said, he always had people around him who provided advice and “taught me a different way to view things.”

His sister and brother both challenged and nurtured him, and he noted that both have had successful military careers, in addition to becoming teachers in their respective fields.  

As a teacher of pre-engineering, technology, and 21st-century learning, Turner (who taught at Short Pump Middle School before Holman opened) said that among his biggest challenges are the misperceptions that exist about gender in that curriculum. He has found it especially rewarding, as a result, to watch female students blossom.

He described one such student who began besting older students in competitions as a sixth-grader, delivered winning campaign speeches as a seventh-grader, moved on to leadership positions in TSA (Technology Student Association) and “almost single-handedly increased the female interest in engineering, technology and TSA.” Recently, he said, he was honored to provide letters of reference as she applied to schools of higher education.

Another challenge of teaching technology, he said, is what he calls the “influences of the modern Information Age.”

While modern electronic marvels save time and provide instant information and entertainment, he said, they also foster a perception that technology is the answer to everything, “and that success is just a keypunch away. 

“I try to instill in the students,” said Turner, “that no matter what electronic gadgets we have at our disposal, they are [simply] tools . . .The greatest computer or tool ever made sits squarely on their shoulders – and its potential is limitless.”  

He also strives to find special and unique things about what interests each student, and to teach “every student in every class like they are preparing to go to Harvard.”

Seeing his students embrace new ideas and apply their classroom lessons in exciting ways at technology competitions, he says, is “marvelous to behold.”

Turner succeeds at getting to know every student, according to parents, because his work day often lasts from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“His door is always open,” marveled one parent. “Kids will hang out in his classroom both before and after school, when they need a place to ‘just be’, or need a shoulder to lean on. . . He teaches so much more than just technology. He welcomes all children, and finds a way to connect with each one.”
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

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