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.”

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Free children’s clothing for those in need

The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10

Beautiful fall weather is back this weekend! Don’t leave your favorite pooch at home – take the whole family to Canine Companions’ DogFest Walk ‘n Roll at West Broad Village or FETCH a Cure’s annual Mutt Strutt at Deep Run Park. Pets are also welcome at this weekend’s Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Halloween events taking place Sunday include the University of Richmond’s 18th annual Trick or Treat Street and Goblins and Gourds at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.


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The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will present acclaimed folk duo The Milk Carton Kids, with special guest Vance Gilbert, at 7:30 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. Tickets are $14 to $28. For details, visit Full text

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