Henrico County VA
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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Tyler Hart

Springfield Park E.S., third grade
As the son of a teacher who is now a teacher himself, Tyler Hart – it would be natural to assume – had to have been a school-lover and a model student growing up.

Just the opposite, says Hart.

“I was always the student with the ‘X’s in the ‘talkative’ box on my report card,” he recalls. “I was always out of my seat. I was not a fan of school.”

It wasn’t until Hart graduated from University of Richmond and began working at summer camps and an after-school program that teaching really entered his mind. Taking a job as a permanent substitute at Crestview Elementary, where he often floated to different classrooms helping out, he found himself drawn to special ed classrooms in particular and to the task of motivating and engaging children in general.

Before long, he returned to UR to get his teaching degree – and discovered a textbook by Ron Clark that affected him deeply.

“I had read numerous textbooks for college and graduate classes, but I think The Essential 55 was the first book I read that really let me know that I wanted to be a teacher,” says Hart. “I become enamored with [Clark’s] teaching style. I watched the movie, The Ron Clark Story and became even more motivated. This was a guy showing it’s okay to dance around, rap, and stand on desks.

“It really led me to believe that education can be fun.”

This year, Hart was able to fly to Atlanta and visit The Ron Clark Academy to see his idol teach in person -- an experience he says he will never forget, and hopes to experience again.

It’s clear, if you ask Hart’s students and their parents, that he has not only taken Ron Clark’s philosophy to heart, but has also added his own distinctive spirit and stamp.

He has “a very cool and friendly way of teaching,” said one parent. Under his guidance, many children who professed to hate school and who tested poorly on SOLs have not only improved or passed, but learned to love learning.

“Children are captivated by his style [and energy],” said another parent. “His assignments are thought-provoking and exciting [and] he provides just the right amount of scaffolding, allowing the learners to take off on their own when ready.”

In only the first nine weeks of school, one parent noticed a dramatic change in her child’s self-confidence and attitude towards learning, and credited the improvement to Hart’s unique, hands-on way of teaching and inventive lessons.

“[My child] is excited to learn new things and to see what creative ideas he has for the day,” she said, citing activities that range from making continents out of cookie dough to dropping eggs off the school roof.

Another parent wrote that Hart’s hands-on style helped her daughter to open up and to be less shy in public.

“He really gets the students involved in using the blog page,” said the parent, “[and teaches] students how to be responsible by setting up a manager and having them have use ‘fake money’ to pay for a job.”

Using technology in new and innovative ways in the classroom is one of Hart’s passions, he agrees. At the beginning of the school year, he invests a lot of time in step-by-step teaching of different programs; by the end of the year, he says he is “blown away” at seeing what the students develop.

“It is a blast using these resources to enhance my students’ learning,” he says. “One of my favorite things is when former students come to show off projects they have created in programs that they learned how to use with me.”

When he’s had opportunities to make presentations at professional conferences, Hart adds, he enjoys helping his fellow teachers just as much as students – and says they “get just as excited as an eight-year-old when they learn something new.”

The former classroom chatterbox says that he has taken the opposite approach from his own teachers in his third grade classroom.

“I know most of the time [as a student] I was probably not being productive with my ‘chatter,’” says Hart. “But I welcome chatter in my classroom – within reason. I thoroughly enjoy watching the interactions of my students.”

Hart also enjoys meeting the challenge of taking 25 different personalities from very different backgrounds, and helping each to find the best way to learn the material “and have an awesome time doing it,” he says.

Becoming a teacher has given him a new appreciation of his mother, Peggy Hart, who taught in Henrico County for 30 years. “I didn’t realize,” he says, “how much work she put into her class until I was on the other side of the desk.”

But no matter how daunting the challenges, Hart says, they are far outweighed by teaching’s rewards.

He enjoys, for instance, seeing his students’ reactions when he tells them they will have a substitute next day.

“To hear my students genuinely upset that I won’t be in class the next day,” says Hart, “always puts a smile on my face. I also find myself checking the clock when I am out, thinking, ‘Now they are doing math. Time for art! I hope ‘Billy’ is doing what he is supposed to be doing right now.’”

But the best part about teaching, he insists, is that it never gets stale.

“[Teaching] will never be the same year in and year out. Every year I have to mold and hone my craft based on the students I have,” Hart says.

“In the ever-changing world of education I live by one motto: ‘Embrace change, it’s the only constant.’”
Community

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.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

Commonwealth Parenting, CMoR-Short Pump to present 6-part parenting forum series

As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.

Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.

"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

When the cliche stands tall

Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.

It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).

Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers