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 threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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