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Top Teachers: Annette Hodges

Donahoe E.S., fifth grade
As a student teacher in inner-city Philadelphia, one of Annette Hodges’ first assignments was to work with a Spanish-speaking youngster named Oscar.

“They sent him to me and said, ‘If you can just teach him a couple words of English, great.’ And I thought, Why only a couple?”

So for the next five months, Hodges worked with Oscar and two other students diligently – setting the same high expectations for them that she had experienced herself in private school as a child. By the end of the school year, Oscar was reading, spelling words correctly and earning A’s on tests.

“He wanted it because he was excited that someone believed he could do it,” she recalled.

That philosophy has guided Hodges through her 21 years as a teacher, including the past three at Donahoe Elementary in Sandston, where this year she is teaching a boys-only class of 17 fifth-graders.

The gender-specific class was Hodges’ idea – something she said grew from her examination of single-sex private academies in which students seemed to excel.

“I thought, Why is is that that’s not something that is offered in the public school setting?” she said. “I wanted to encourage [students] and give them expectations.”

Hodges is drilling into her students’ minds that they will become ‘men of honor’ by the end of the school year.

Every Monday, the boys “dress for success” by wearing khakis or blue jeans and a light blue Izod shirt that Hodges purchased each of them in September. The point? To teach them what success looks like and help them internalize it.

“Many of them did not know what success was,” Hodges said, recalling a recent exercise in which one student said his mother was successful because she went to work every day, even though she hated her job. “They have to see it before they can truly believe it because they know what they’re looking at. It’s about breaking habits that they’ve seen or thought were okay and rebuilding things for them.”

Her approach is working.

“Through tears, attitude, and smiles of the boys, the joy of accomplishment is the prize,” one nominator wrote. “Ms. Hodges has a heart of a lion and patience of an angel. The spirit and success of the boys are the amazing result.”

Though her students have scored well in reading and math tests, she is motivating them to achieve 100 percent passage rates in both.

“I just don’t want them just simply to pass to say they passed,” she said. “I want them to leave being able to transfer the knowledge to the following year. I want them to truly be true learners.”

“I go to bed a great deal at night with a heavy heart because I’m thinking, ‘How can I reach this one, how can I get that one to understand?’ You don’t have time to spend time celebrating successes.”
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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