Henrico County VA
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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.


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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