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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Connie Kelly

Seven Pines E.S., kindergarten
You might say that education is in Connie Kelly's blood. If she needed to talk to the principal of her elementary school in Illinois, she could do so over dinner each night – he was her father. Her mother also was a teacher.

So perhaps it was no surprise when, after having children, returned to finish her college education and begin her own teaching career in her mid-30s.

"I've been loving it ever since," she said. "I wouldn't do anything else."

Kelly started with five years as a teacher in Richmond and has spent the past nine years teaching kindergarten at Seven Pines Elementary in Sandston. Kindergartners, she said, are the perfect fit for her.

"I like their enthusiasm for school," she said. "They are bubbly when they come in, they're so excited to learn. They're like little sponges – I love to see the little lightbulbs come on. It's a wonderful age where they're exploring their environment, they're learning new things, learning how to get along with others."

Kelly's patience and thoroughness with her students stands out to parents.

"She is more than a teacher – she is amazing!" one nominator wrote. "She is everything you would want in a teacher or in any person you trust your most valuables to. Kindergarten isn't always an easy step for children but she made such a bond with my son that he was always so eager to go to school."

Much has changed in the expectations place on kindergartners in the decade-plus since Kelly began teaching.

"When I first started, if you taught letters and sounds, and how to put them together, you'd call it a good year," she said. "Now most of the children are reading by the end of kindergarten. They're adding and subtracting, things they used to do by end of first grade.

"When I give them a book and they actually read it, they look at me with a big smile on their face like, 'I'm reading this book!' I think that's the 'ah-ha' moment for me."

Kelly's class utilizes interactive Promethean boards and iPads and computers virtually every day, and she engages students through a number of creative exercises, too.

"They pick it up so easily, they really do," Kelly said of her students' technology acumen. "I think they pick it up easier than I did. We also do a lot of dancing, singing, playing games. You can learn in lots of different ways."

The diversity at Seven Pines across ethnic and socioeconomic groups is something Kelly appreciates and one reason she's enjoyed her time at the school so much. She's also grateful that she has the chance to watch her former students grow as they progress through school. Many stop in to say hello once they've advanced to higher grade levels.

"Mrs. Kelly is the first real teacher my son had, and the way she mentored him and cared for him gave him a path to what is to be expected from other teachers in the future," another nominator wrote. "Her continued contact with the parent really made me feel like my son and I really meant something to her."


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers