Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Debbie Waldenmaier

Colonial Trail E.S., third grade
As a sixth-grader in Brentwood, N.Y., Debbie Waldenmaier struggled with reading and had difficulty grasping some concepts that didn’t involve visual or audible elements. But her teacher spent extra time with her and helped create new ways for her to learn that eventually allowed her to thrive.

As a third-grade teacher at Colonial Trail Elementary School, Waldenmaier prides herself upon her ability to do the same for her students.

Because so many students learn in different ways, she has spent extra effort developing unique lessons for individual students, taking their strengths and weaknesses into account as she does so.

“Her classroom is a hands on, challenging learning environment,” one nominator wrote of Waldenmaier. “Her enthusiasm and love of what she does is clear.”

To Waldenmaier, her teaching style is a natural extension of who she is.

“I think it comes naturally because of the way that I learn,” she said. “I was a very eclectic learner – I needed to touch, see, hear it.”

To help her students understand the larger world around them, she has arranged for pen pal partnerships with students in Italy and Niger, Africa – students with whom her own class communicates in writing and through video conferencing.

“We sent candy canes to them for Christmas, we’ve exchanged DVDs. The experience is so real for them,” Waldenmaier said of her students.

Moments of recognition and clarity excite Waldenmaier, who feels at home with third-graders and relishes her role assisting in their transition from students who are learning how to read to students who are reading to learn.

“It’s just a wonderful transformation over the course of the year,” she said. “They become much more independent.”

Last year, Waldenmaier – a 16-year teaching veteran who has spent the past four years at Colonial Trail – earned teacher of the year honors at her school. In November, she was one of several recipients of the REB Award, which is given annually to a select few teachers in Metro Richmond. The $10,000 award will help fund a trip to Greece and Italy this summer, during which she plans to document her visits to the historical sites her students can’t quite fathom.

“It’s really difficult for them to make the connection that a building was built 2,000 years ago and still exists,” she said.

Her trip, she hopes, will make the connection a real one for students in the future. Her classroom message is not unlike her favorite quote from Mother Theresa: “Speak kind words, and you will hear kind echoes.”

“We teach them to be good citizens and about the differences between people and accepting people for who they are,” she said.
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

Film industry training program planned for this weekend

The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

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