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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

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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