Henrico County VA

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Catherine “Kitti” Huber

Skipwith E.S., second grade
You might say that Skipwith Elementary is home to Catherine “Kitti” Huber, and not just because she attended the school as a child or because she’s taught there for 12 years – or even because her daughter, Tara, also has taught there for the past four years.

In reality, Skipwith is home because of the students she’s taught and the community she’s watched grow up.

“I’ve been in [teaching] long enough now that many of my students have become adults,” says Huber, who teaches second grade at the school and whose career spans nearly three decades, including 28 years in Henrico County (at Ratcliffe and Fair Oaks in addition to Skipwith). “One of my first-graders is a professor in college now. I’ve watched little people become big people. It’s really amazing sometimes how similar the adults who come back to you are as the children you taught.”

One of the great joys of teaching young students, Huber says, is witnessing their reactions when they realize they’ve learned something. Reading, in particular, often draws the most noteworthy reactions.

“They normally realize that they can read when they’re not in school,” Huber says. “I’ve had so many kids come in one day and say, ‘Guess what happened to me this weekend!’”

When Huber’s own children attended Skipwith, she worried that its lack of diversity might create a world view for them that was too narrow.

“And now we’re one of the most diverse elementary schools in the whole county,” she says.

Huber recalls a snack break in her classroom several years ago, during which a half-dozen students – each a different ethnicity – sat down together and passed a small chalkboard around, taking turns writing “Hello” in their native languages.

“I watched those kids and I thought, They’re taking turns, they’re sharing, they’re relating to each other. If we could do this everywhere all over the world, all the issues that we have could be resolved.”

To parents and colleagues alike, Huber’s ability to motivate students is second to none.

“She challenges her students to think and solve problems instead of just memorizing facts,” one parent wrote in a nomination letter. “The skills they are learning from her will last a lifetime.”

Huber challenges her students to make any situation a learning situation. She intentionally makes spelling and grammatical mistakes on letters home and asks students to identify the mistakes, correct them and write both pieces of information on an index card. Once they’ve turned in 10 cards, they earn 10 minutes of free time.

Students who complete reading comprehension tests as part of an ongoing accelerated reading program earn a free t-shirt after they’ve completed a specified number. Those who earn their shirts before Huber herself does receive a break from homework. Three already have done so, and one student didn’t stop there.

“He’s been lugging around this 412-page book,” Huber says.

Huber also has played an integral role in the school’s Destination Imagination program (formerly Odyssey of the Mind), a program that encourages teamwork, problem solving and creativity by presenting challenges for teams of students to complete during a period of several months. She coached the school’s team in the 1980s as a parent, then started a team at Ratcliffe as a teacher and re-started the Skipwith program when she returned to the school. Today she serves on the Destination Imagination regional board.

Huber meets a group of friends once a month for lunch. Most are retired teachers and former coworkers of hers, and they often wonder why she hasn’t joined their ranks yet.

“Everybody is saying, Isn’t it time yet?” Huber says. “And I don’t think it is.”
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


It’s Halloween! Ghosts and goblins are everywhere…especially at Dorey Park’s Monster Mash and the annual Pumpkin Festival at Gayton Crossing Shopping Center. But don’t let the fun stop on the 31st – the Latin Ballet of Virginia will present El Dia de los Muertos Family Festival on Nov. 1. And if you need a break from the candy, enjoy some classical music at the University of Richmond and the Weinstein JCC on Sunday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Brews and bites done right

Urban Tavern’s big, bold themes impress

The Urban Tavern opened in August, replacing the former Shackelford’s space at 10498 Ridgefield Parkway in Short Pump. Because of local and longtime devotion to Shackleford’s, Urban Tavern has some big shoes to fill.

Without any background information, I headed to the restaurant for dinner on a Wednesday night, two months after its opening.

On a perfect fall evening, four out of eight outdoor tables were taken, giving the impression that the restaurant was busier than it was. On the inside, a couple tables were taken, and a few folks were seated at the bar. > Read more.

A terrible, horrible movie. . . that’s actually pretty good

‘Alexander’ provides uncomplicated family fun
It’s not surprising in the least that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t much resemble the book it’s based upon.

Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book isn’t exactly overflowing with movie-worthy material. Boy has bad day. Boy is informed that everyone has bad days sometimes. Then, the back cover.

In the film, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-ness is blown up to more extreme size. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) has a bum day every day, while the rest of his family (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey) exist in a constant bubble of perfection and cheery optimism – to the point that the family is so wrapped up in their own success that Alexander’s being ignored.

So on the eve of his 12th birthday, Alexander makes a wish: just once, he’d like his family to see things from his perspective; to experience the crushing disappointment of one of those no good, very bad days. Once he has blown out the candle on his pre-birthday ice cream sundae, his family’s fate is sealed: one full day of crippling disasters for all of them. > Read more.

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