Henrico’s Top Teachers – Bev Lanier

Bev Lanier was two years removed from college with a degree in English and a strong desire to teach. But despite sending applications to a number of local school systems, she’d heard nothing back. So one August afternoon, she picked up the phone and called Henrico County’s Central Office to ask if there were any vacant positions.

“The person told me to hold on, and then somebody got back on the phone and asked if I could come in three hours for an interview. Of course I said yes.”

The only problems: Lanier had nothing formal to wear and didn’t own a car. She borrowed her sister’s car, drove to Carytown and bought a dress in time for the interview.

“It had poodles on it,” she said. “It was the ugliest dress in the history of mankind.”

But the interview went well, and Lanier was sent to Varina High School for an interview there.

“I thought Varina was 1,000 miles away from [my home] on Grace Street,” she said. “I have never been so nervous in my whole life. . . But I was hired.”

That was 1981. Thirty-three years later, Lanier is somewhat of a Varina legend, having spent her entire teaching career at the school. She has served as the director of Varina’s Center for Communications – a four-year program that brings together about 100 students from throughout the county – since its inception in 1994.

Students in the program become well-versed in critical and journalistic writing, graphic design, acting, broadcast television and oral interpretation, among other skills. They produce the Blue Devil, Varina’s award-winning student newspaper, as well as campus television shows. Being able to see the impact their words and voices have on the entire school community helps motivate students to excel, Lanier said.

“It shows them this is important,” she said.

Much has changed since Lanier’s first year at the school – which at that time had one copy machine, no computers and often dismissed early on hot days because there was no air conditioning – but the basic hallmarks of communication have not, she said.

“Writing and thinking are still the same – still hard work.”

Lanier particularly enjoys being able to work with students during a four-year period and watch them grow and achieve. She’s taught a number of students from the same families, as well as children of former students. One of her former students later became a coworker at Varina.

Lanier’s longevity makes her chuckle at her surroundings sometimes.

“It’s strange to be in a meeting when you've been teaching longer than most people in the room have been alive,” she said. But she finds that young teachers help invigorate the school and bring new perspective to topics, which in turn motivates her.

“We have an exceptional staff,” she said. “Young, talented teachers – they bring something new to the table. I learn with them. They have a lot of good ideas, and it makes it more exciting in the classroom.”

Lanier’s enthusiasm for her job is evident in her words, and she doesn’t sound like someone who’s ready to call it a career anytime soon.

"I think I’ve got a couple good years left,” she said.
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May 2017
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Peggy Singlemann, horticulturalist for the Maymont Park gardens, will present “A Pollinator’s Paradise: What do They Seek?” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Varina Library. Filling your garden with pollinators is easy once you know what they are looking for. Singlemann will explore the relationship between flowers and different pollinators to learn how to bring your landscape to life. For details, call 501-1980 or visit http://www.henricolibrary.org. Full text

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