Henrico’s Top Teachers – Brandon McFarling

An avid guitarist from the age of 15, Brandon McFarling originally thought he might go into musical theater as a career. Not only did he enjoy playing in a band as a teenager, but he was able to use his musical talents to academic advantage. One notable high school teacher, Sharon Conner Hayden, allowed him to perform a song about Catcher in the Rye instead of submitting a paper – and gave him an A on the assignment.

It wasn't until he worked for the Boys and Girls Club in Martinsville that he began to consider teaching. Not only were the young children at the Club excited about learning – which sparked his interest in ways to make learning fun – but he also saw that he could influence young boys in particular.

"I made a difference because I was a strong male role model," he recalls. "After seeing the positive effect I had on young boys especially, I decided that early childhood education was where I was most needed."

Today McFarling makes frequent use of the guitar in his Jackson Davis Elementary School first grade classroom, and enjoys being able to combine both teaching and musical passions into activities that make learning fun for his students.

"In some ways," he says as he surveys his classroom at the end of the day, "you're an entertainer in here."

In addition to writing and performing songs about photosynthesis and the five senses for his students, he has also gotten the students involved in the song-writing process – producing with their help an original song about Lincoln that is based on the first-grade SOLs. "It's pretty amazing to see," McFarling says, "what that does for their own confidence and for their creative and collaborative skills."

A parent nominator cites McFarling's guitar-playing among the skills he uses to engage his students, and notes in addition that he occasionally brings in his lizard as an educational treat. The parent, whose child has special needs, notes that McFarling always pays close attention to the child and goes out of his way to help the child succeed.

Probably his biggest challenge in the classroom, McFarling says, is finding a balance between meeting academic expectations and standardized goals while providing a fun learning environment. He still keeps in touch with Jessica Reed Farley at Twin Hickory E.S., where he student taught, and says she continues to inspire, coach and mentor him.

Most of all, he is ever mindful of the impact he can have on his young students – knowing from his own experience that such impacts might be felt far beyond elementary school.

He has never forgotten the kind gesture of a teacher he knew in fifth grade, Mrs. Aldridge, on the day after his grandfather died. Seeing that McFarling was upset, Aldridge pulled him out into the hall during a video and give him a chance to cry with her. "I was not even a member of her class," McFarling says.

"Oftentimes I do not remember what a teacher said, but I always remember how they made me feel," he concludes. "I try to remember that in my own teaching." 
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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
> Read more.

State honors EMS officials this week

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This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
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Actor Kerrigan Sullivan will present “A Song in the Wilderness,” a 45-minute one-woman show that offers a dramatic exploration of the life and experiences of Gene Stratton-Porter, at 8 p.m. at CAT Theatre, 319 N. Wilkinson Rd.

Born in 1863, Stratton-Porter was an accomplished writer of fiction and non-fiction. She was also a celebrated nature photographer and an early naturalist. She was one of the first women to form a movie production studio.

“A Song in the Wilderness,” written by Larry Gard, was first produced in 1993 as part of the annual Performances in the Humanities program of the Indiana Humanities Council, and starred Marcia Quick Gard as Gene Stratton-Porter. The show toured Indiana under the same banner during the spring of each year, through 1997. It was also produced for a festival about women in science at the Science Museum of Virginia in 2002, featuring the same actress. The 2017 production is offered in memory of Marcia Quick Gard, who passed away on Dec. 16, 2016.

Tickets are $12. The performance will include a reception and talk back with the production staff after the show. For tickets and details, visit http://www.cattheatre.com. Full text

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