Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Chris Tickle

Steward School, fourth grade
In Chris Tickle’s class at The Steward School, students can never be sure who might show up to teach a lesson.

One day it might be “Augustus Porcularis,” an ancient Roman pig farmer who teaches Roman numerals.

On another day a giant bee might visit to teach about the verb “to be.” Or “Gramma Grammar,” a prim and proper British matron, might drop in for a chat about the beauty of the English language.

“It is not at all unusual,” wrote an admiring parent, “for Mr. Tickle to put on a housecoat and wig or a head-to-toe Cat-in-the-Hat regalia at a moment’s notice. . . And who else would show up at school dressed in full knight gear as ‘Sir Cumference’ to teach a brand new geometry theory to 9-year-olds?”

The theatricality comes naturally to Tickle, whose wife once bought him a print featuring the quote, “Good teaching is one-quarter preparation and three-quarters theatre.”

A theatre major in college, he had always loved school and learning, but initially passed up education studies to pursue other fields.

“After working in the ‘real world’ for a number of years,” Tickle said, “I realized that I really missed being in a learning environment . . . [and] decided to follow my heart where it had always been.”

But don’t for a moment assume that Tickle’s playful, out-of-the-box teaching methods mean he is a soft touch, or that his classroom is all about play. Steward parents will attest to his ability to deliver “a loving dose of tough love when necessary.”

And Tickle will tell you that one of his most rewarding moments was getting a note from a former middle school student whose classmates – described by Tickle as “low-motivation” – had been given a dose of that tough love.

“I felt I needed to let [those students] know that once they left my school and headed to high school, they would be in for a rude awakening,” Tickle recalled. A year later, one student wrote to thank him for being so hard on him. “Using my own words, he told me that once he got to high school, he did feel like he had been hit by a truck, but he had learned from it and was actually doing okay.”

Whether he is coaching his Destination Imagination teams (which have made it as far as the Top 10 in the Global Finals), leading his fourth-graders through writing exercises, or motivating kindergartners-through-fifth-graders in reading achievement assemblies, Tickle said he is constantly striving to help students discover the joy of learning and the desire to continue to learn throughout their lives.

He also strives to get to know them as individuals, according to parents, and takes a sincere interest in every student.

Just before school begins each year, Tickle sends out letters inviting each student to write a letter about himself or herself. By year’s end, he knows them all well enough to create his annual version of Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go – “with a full stanza,” said a parent, “tailored for each student in the class.

“What could be more touching to any parent?”

Tickle can cite many touching moments of his own, but especially enjoys watching his students experience the “ah-ha” moment when they finally grasp a concept. Not long ago, one student was dejected over hitting a roadblock with long division. Despite weeks of approaching it from all different angles, and “copious amounts of encouragement,” he had not caught on. But then “his face suddenly lit up with a huge smile,” said Tickle, and he announced, “I finally got it!”

The thrill of seeing that face has yet to wear off, said Tickle, who notes that he thinks about his students (“current, past, and sometimes even future ones”) day and night. “I don’t stop being a teacher when the final bell rings.”

He also never stops thinking about what he can do to become better at his profession.

“As far as I’m concerned, being a teacher is one of those things that is just part of who you are. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else.”


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

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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.

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