Henrico’s Top Teachers – Cheryl Waite

Cheryl Waite starts every day by hugging a group of bright-eyed and eager kindergarten students at Glen Allen Elementary – something she never would have expected.

“I would have never dreamed I would be a teacher,” Waite said with a laugh. “I was always the kid that was fine with flying beneath the radar and did fine in school, I was kind of content with going by with ease. Teaching kind of found me.”

After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in health sciences, Waite wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her career. She took a job at an after-school program through the Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation and worked at several schools and community centers with kids who came from a variety of backgrounds. She hasn’t stopped being around children since.

“I loved being on their level and finding different ways to connect with them, and I loved the mutual relationship of learning from them and them learning from me,” Waite said.

Waite went back to school to earn a master’s in teaching as well as a reading specialist endorsement from Longwood University and began teaching at R.C Longan Elementary. She was there for nine years and taught grades first through third. She moved to Glen Allen Elementary because her two children attended, and she wanted to make life a little easier for her family. (Her husband keeps a hectic schedule as a police officer.)

Waite’s previous teaching experience prepared her for kindergarten, as did her reading specialist endorsement and passion for reading, which she incorporates into her class through reading and vocabulary exercises in various content areas.

“I’m at an advantage because I’ve taught [grades] one, two and three. I know what’s expected in the grades level above and where they’ve come from, and there’s value in having taught those other grades," she said. "I feel like my job is to create the most confident individual I can at this point, so when that comes around they are confident and comfortable with the education they’ve received and can knock it out of the park.”

One parent noticed a dramatic change in her child’s self-confidence and attitude towards learning and credited the improvement to Waite’s unique ability to connect with children and make them feel special.

“Mrs. Waite has been a fabulous role model for our daughter,” the parent wrote. “She assisted her when needed but also let [our daughter] do things on her own. She keeps in touch with us and could not be more friendly. Our daughter always tells us about how if she is upset Mrs. Waite will give her a big hug or the encouraging words she needs to hear.”

Glen Allen Elementary has become Waite’s second home, and she is thankful to be surrounded by a supportive principal and team who make her job worthwhile.

“I love each of my students as my own, and I know how I want my kids to be treated,” she said. "When I teach my class and students I can honestly say I’m doing everything for them, and that’s what keeps me plugging along. The kids are someone’s baby and they're my babies during the day; it’s my job to help them grow.”

Waite hopes to stay in kindergarten and have the opportunity to redevelop the same grade level curriculum and improve as much as she can as a teacher. Kindergarten requires a different level of patience and skills that she enjoys.

“The excitement of introducing kids to something they have never seen or done before and helping them feel capable and really just seeing that ‘a-ha’ moment when the light bulb turns on an they figure out they can do this is amazing,” she said. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
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September 2017
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Local band Wild Honey will perform a mix of country, bluegrass and Americana at 2 p.m. at Twin Hickory Library. This afternoon concert is part of the Bob Singer Senior Series sponsored by Friends of Twin Hickory Library. For details, call 501-1920 or visit http://www.henricolibrary.org. Full text

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