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Top Teachers: Katie Schwieder

Fairfield M.S., sixth grade
On their 20th wedding anniversary, Katie Schwieder and her husband, Wylie, had an epiphany. She had spent her professional life as a banker and corporate trainer, he as a corporate executive. But with their four children finished or nearly finished with their public schooling, Schwieder said, “we decided it was time to give back.”

With that, they both quit their jobs to become teachers. Wylie Schwieder is in his third year teaching math at Henrico High School and Katie is in her second teaching English at Fairfield Middle School.

The transition wasn’t a difficult one for her.

“In a sense, I’ve been a teacher my whole life,” she said, recalling her days as a branch manager at a Wisconsin bank, then as a corporate trainer who assisted with team development, resolving conflict and customer service issues.

“Every day in the classroom, my customer is that child who’s in front of me, and his or her parents,” she said. “I always feel like I’m here to serve them. The product is education.”

Schwieder feels meant for sixth-graders – students caught in between the regimented schedule of elementary school and the flexibility of high school – as they work to define themselves in a sometimes chaotic blend of emotions.

“They’re independent but still children,” she said. “They’re trying to grow up but really not sure how. They’re concerned with having friends, but sometimes they just really need a hug.”

English is a natural fit for Schwieder, who grew up with a healthy appetite for reading and writing.

“I’m passionate about helping young people learn to communicate,” she said, “to express themselves both in writing and orally in a way that helps them be successful and engage with other people – especially in a world so technologically advanced now.”

To that end, Schwieder often builds her lessons around topics that the students themselves select.

One, for example, requires students to write about “My Most Unforgettable Day” – allowing them to recall their most prideful or special moments. Another asks them to address the topic “If I Could I Would” by writing about something they’d love to do.

Schwieder then encourages students to try the things they write about. Last summer, one student took piano lessons as a result. Another went to football camp. A third learned to make jewelry.

“Visiting her classroom, you feel the energy of inspiring lessons and students who want to be the best they can be for her,” one nominator wrote of Schwieder.

Schwieder’s in-class “book clubs” allow students to discuss books together, then create video commercials, skits or even re-write a book’s endings as a group.

By reading Three Cups of Tea – a book by Greg Mortenson about his efforts to establish schools for girls in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan – Fairfield sixth-graders have learned to relate to children their age half a world away.

“I’m trying to open up their minds to the world beyond the East End of Henrico,” she said. “I wrote in all my Christmas cards last year that I have found my calling. It’s been very rewarding.”


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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