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.
The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.
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.
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.
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.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
‘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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