Top Teachers: Debbie Waldenmaier

Colonial Trail E.S., third grade
As a sixth-grader in Brentwood, N.Y., Debbie Waldenmaier struggled with reading and had difficulty grasping some concepts that didn’t involve visual or audible elements. But her teacher spent extra time with her and helped create new ways for her to learn that eventually allowed her to thrive.

As a third-grade teacher at Colonial Trail Elementary School, Waldenmaier prides herself upon her ability to do the same for her students.

Because so many students learn in different ways, she has spent extra effort developing unique lessons for individual students, taking their strengths and weaknesses into account as she does so.

“Her classroom is a hands on, challenging learning environment,” one nominator wrote of Waldenmaier. “Her enthusiasm and love of what she does is clear.”

To Waldenmaier, her teaching style is a natural extension of who she is.

“I think it comes naturally because of the way that I learn,” she said. “I was a very eclectic learner – I needed to touch, see, hear it.”

To help her students understand the larger world around them, she has arranged for pen pal partnerships with students in Italy and Niger, Africa – students with whom her own class communicates in writing and through video conferencing.

“We sent candy canes to them for Christmas, we’ve exchanged DVDs. The experience is so real for them,” Waldenmaier said of her students.

Moments of recognition and clarity excite Waldenmaier, who feels at home with third-graders and relishes her role assisting in their transition from students who are learning how to read to students who are reading to learn.

“It’s just a wonderful transformation over the course of the year,” she said. “They become much more independent.”

Last year, Waldenmaier – a 16-year teaching veteran who has spent the past four years at Colonial Trail – earned teacher of the year honors at her school. In November, she was one of several recipients of the REB Award, which is given annually to a select few teachers in Metro Richmond. The $10,000 award will help fund a trip to Greece and Italy this summer, during which she plans to document her visits to the historical sites her students can’t quite fathom.

“It’s really difficult for them to make the connection that a building was built 2,000 years ago and still exists,” she said.

Her trip, she hopes, will make the connection a real one for students in the future. Her classroom message is not unlike her favorite quote from Mother Theresa: “Speak kind words, and you will hear kind echoes.”

“We teach them to be good citizens and about the differences between people and accepting people for who they are,” she said.

Patient First to offer free Halloween candy x-rays

Patient First will offer free digital X-ray imaging of Halloween candy at all neighborhood medical centers from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.

While an adult should always inspect candy before allowing a child to enjoy their trick-or-treating rewards, the free X-ray offer gives parents an additional precaution to consider and to provide peace of mind. X-rays may detect objects such as glass, metal or plastic; however, parents still need to provide supervision, since some foreign materials may not appear in x-rays. > Read more.

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.

Theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter announced

The theme for the annual Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside has been announced.

This year's event, which opens Nov. 25 and will continue through Jan. 9, will explore "Living Color" and show how the world's kaleidoscope of colors speaks to people, impacts nature and influences culture, according to Garden officials. The event features more than a half million lights, botanical decorations, trains, holiday dinners, family activities and more. > Read more.


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Children ages 2-8 and their families are invited to Henricus Historical Park at 3 p.m. for Haunted Henricus, Jr.: Things That Go Bump in the Afternoon. There will be stories, a treats tour and make-and-take 17th-century crafts. Admission is $5 each; free for Henricus patrons. Register by Oct. 26 to 748-1611. For details, visit Full text

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