Henrico’s Top Teachers – Evelyn Thomas

Parents of second-graders in Evelyn Thomas’ class at Three Chopt Elementary School don’t have to motivate their students to do homework.

“My son runs in the door and asks, “Can I do my math homework now? I’m going to beat my number from yesterday!’” one wrote in a letter nominating Thomas as a top teacher.

Wrote another: “My son has shown an amazing effort with homework and spelling tests that he did not have in previous years. When I asked why, he responded, ‘I want to be a good student and Mrs. Thomas is so good to us, I would not want to make her sad.”

Thomas has earned high marks across the board from parents, who describe her as cheerful, caring and enthusiastic. Her ability to engage students and foster a love of learning has paid many dividends.

One of her most popular assignments is ‘Five-minute math,’ in which children make flashcards with a variety of math problems, then sit down with family members at home and do as many as they can within five minutes. Students predict how many they’ll get right, then monitor their progression and divide the piles into those they know and those they don’t.

“At the beginning of the school year, some kids only get through 13 or 14,” Thomas says. “But then they start to see progress. I’ve got students now doing 106 math facts in five minutes. They take ownership of what they’re doing.”

Parents have witnessed the excitement first-hand.

“My son is so incredibly eager to please her,” one wrote in a nomination letter. “He can’t wait to tell her when he breaks his “five minute math” record! He’s so eager to go to school each day because of Mrs. Thomas. As a mom, that means everything to me.”

Said another: “Mrs. Thomas has changed my son from a child who went to school because he had to, to a child who is truly excited to go to school and learn.”

Thomas, now in her 12th year as a Henrico teacher and 21st overall, is married to Hunter Thomas, who has taught for 23 years in the county and is currently at Godwin High School. She has taught every grade level in elementary school and served recently as a math coach, splitting time between Crestview and Three Chopt as part of a federal grant. But she missed having her own homeroom and was glad to return full-time to Three Chopt this year.

“I love second grade,” she says. “They’re so curious, and the group that I have, they’re happy – they give me smiles all day long. One of my priorities is to create a happy place for these children to come, and they make it easy for me.”

Thomas still recalls a moment that occurred early in her teaching career in the City of Richmond, when a first-grader asked her on a Friday afternoon, “What do you do here over the weekend?” When she told the child that she didn’t come to the classroom on the weekends, he said, “I wish I could come up here tomorrow, and I wish I could stay in our classroom.”

“Emotionally, he was invested in our class, and we were family to him,” Thomas says. “That just told me that I made an impact in his life. To know that he would want to spend more time in class, it kind of said that I was on the right path. That’s such a huge part of my job – making sure that when the children come to school that it’s a happy place.”
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River City Jazz will perform at 7 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre in Highland Springs. This 20-piece big band explores everything from standard jazz and big band to Latin, rock and more contemporary styles. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://www.henricolive.com. Full text

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