Henrico County VA
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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Rita Roberson

Ratcliffe E.S., fifth grade
Students at Ratcliffe Elementary School in Eastern Henrico – and even those who have moved on to middle school and beyond – know that they'll always have a friend and mentor in Rita Roberson.

Roberson, a fifth-grade teacher who has spent her entire 20-year teaching career at Ratcliffe, takes pride in both roles.

"I may be their teacher for just a short time, but I'm always going to be there for them," Roberson said.

Though Ratcliffe sits squarely in the middle of one of Henrico's most at-risk regions (near Laburnum Avenue and Mechanicsville Turnpike) and some of its students live in poverty or single-parent households, Roberson is not fazed.

"Every student is a challenge, whether they are from single-family household or not," she said. "But every one can and will learn."

Students know Roberson as an active teacher who incorporates a variety of hands-on materials, movements and even songs and dances to connect with students. She believes that empowering students to teach various lessons to each other helps them learn more than they might otherwise, and she utilizes a number of progressive ideas championed by nationally known educator Ron Clark. Roberson was among a handful of Henrico teachers who attended Clark's academy in her hometown of Atlanta last year to learn more about his innovative style of educating students.

Some parents tell Roberson that because they struggled with math in school themselves, they don't feel qualified to help their students with it. But there are no excuses for Roberson, who is weeks away from completing a master's degree as a math specialist at VCU and who believes math skills are just as important to a student's growth as reading skills.

"You would never come back [as a parent] and say, 'I just never got reading,'" she said. So she makes it her mission to provide students – and parents – the support they need to master the math skills that will serve them later in life. It works.

"Many of Mrs. Roberson's students come back to visit and discuss how they learned so much in her math class," a nominator wrote. "You often hear, "I wish you could always teach me math."

Roberson was among the first group of teachers in Henrico to work with interactive Promethean boards when the school system began a pilot program years ago. Now she uses hers every day.

"I can't see myself teaching without my board," she said. In addition to making lessons more interactive, the board can help her identify which individual students need extra help by providing real-time quiz results by student.

Technology also has provided her students – many of whom haven't traveled outside this region – with a window to the world. Her class Skypes with students in Colorado and Minnesota, watches and discusses world news on cable television and researches national and international news and events.

Of Roberson, a nominator wrote that "she manages to maintain the interest of majority of her students and inspires them to set higher goals and reach them."

Roberson has taught first, second and fifth grades at Ratcliffe, which she describes as a place "like no other" because of its family environment and supportive faculty, staff and parents.

She particularly enjoys fifth-grade students because they are just coming into their own as individuals.

"They have a sense of purpose," she said. "They're trying to understand who they are and their place in the world. You actually see them changing from that little person who needed your help."

Particularly gratifying for Roberson are the success stories shared by former students who return to visit her classroom. One graduated from William & Mary. Another earned a full scholarship to the University of Richmond and took a job with Teach for America, which has sent her to far-flung corners of the world.

"It's like, alright, I did make a difference," Roberson said.
Community

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.

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.

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Entertainment

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.

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.

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Henrico's Top Teachers