Henrico’s Top Teachers – Julie Richardson

Godwin H.S., social studies
Julie Richardson has a way with her students, said a colleague who nominated her, that draws them to her and makes them want to keep in touch well after they have graduated.

A teacher of social studies at both the honors and AP levels, she is known as one of the best teachers at Godwin – respected by both students and faculty.

"She holds the students to a very high standard," said her colleague. "She challenges them and they come away better writers, thinkers and people.

"The impact she has on her students is profound."

Among those who had a similar profound effect on Richardson were her history teachers at Huguenot High School, who helped instill in her the love of the subject that made her want to teach.

"I wanted to be able," Richardson said, "to share that love with students." She also cited a number of college professors who influenced her, including Harold Greer, Rosemary Gallaher, Kathy Fuller, and Hussein Mustafa at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Richardson had no hesitation in naming her most formidable challenge as the pressures imposed on her schedule – especially by standardized testing. Under the testing time frame, she said, it can be extremely challenging "to teach in a meaningful manner."

But she has clearly met the challenge successfully – as her former students tell her often.

"On a daily basis I get emails from former students thanking me for preparing them for college," she said. " I just got one last week, bragging about how much better she is doing in college because I required them to complete many writing assignments. "

A colleague noted that with one student in particular, Richardson did more than just prepare him for college; she had a life-altering effect on his reactionary attitudes.

"One of her students she had as a freshman was from an overtly racist family," wrote her fellow teacher. "Julie is black, and she may have been the first, if not one of the few, black people he had interacted with."

Now serving in the US Navy, the student gradually changed his views and came to respect and admire Richardson. "With her patience and personality, she was able to replace ignorance with appreciation and knowledge," wrote Richardson's co-worker. "She is one of the only teachers he comes back to visit when he is on leave.

"Julie was a major influence on shaping this young man not only academically," the teacher wrote, "but in overcoming a viewpoint that would have shaped his life in such a negative way."
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