Henrico County VA
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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

Film industry training program planned for this weekend

The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers