Henrico’s Top Teachers – Darla Perry

Darla Perry has been fascinated by the way people communicate since meeting a classmate in high school who had a stuttering problem. Her desire to help those in similar situations, coupled with her love of children, led her to a lengthy and varied career as an educator, which has included time as a consultant, direct care provider and educational trainer, as well as a teacher.

She landed in Henrico County eight years ago when a position at Rivers Edge Elementary School’s Social Integrated Services Program opened. The program is one of a handful of elementary “hubs” in Henrico for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Perry works with 10 students in kindergarten, first and second grades, helping them to transition from life at home to a new environment in school.

“It’s a whole new experience for all children, but especially those who have special needs,” Perry said.

Though establishing effective communication with her students can be challenging at times, Perry said that her efforts are guided by a quote of unknown origin that proclaims, “There’s no such thing as an unreachable child – only those who as yet are unreached.”

“What it takes is really a lot of observing the child, realizing the child is an individual and what works for one child isn’t going to work for another,” she said. “The biggest thing that we work on is building a trusting relationship with them. There are a lot of different things you need to do to help them feel comfortable and to help them trust you.”

Her techniques, according to a parent who nominated her as a top teacher, are effective.

"Mrs. Perry understands more about autism than we do as parents of our autistic son,” the woman wrote. “She goes above and beyond to make sure Mom and Dad are OK, as well as taking charge of my son’s education with both his academics as well as his personal growth and well-being.

“On those days that I’m too tired to face autism, I know that Mrs. Perry is fighting the fight for me from 8 to 2:30, Monday through Friday, and it gives me a huge sense of relief knowing she is in our corner.”

The program allows Perry to spend one-on-one time with students but also provides the opportunity to teach them as one group or smaller groups. She praised the community feel at Rivers Edge as a chief reason why she took the job in the first place.

“The administration has worked hard to create an environment that feels good all the time,” she said.

Though her career has spanned more than 30 years, Perry is finding it difficult to imagine its conclusion.

“I feel that this was kind of meant to be for me,” she said. “Almost every year I think, ‘Hmm, maybe this will be my last year.’ And then there will be another student, and then I think, ‘Well, maybe when So-and-So leaves.’”
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Henrico Business Bulletin Board

September 2017

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Lavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Rd. in Glen Allen, will offer the class “Container Gardening” from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Learn how to choose and arrange your plants, care for them and harvest. Potting mix is provided; cost of container, plants and any extras are not included. Cost is $20. To register, call 262-7167 or visit http://www.lavenderfieldsfarm.com. Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers

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