Henrico’s Top Teachers – Karen Clements
Byrd M.S., gifted enrichment
Karen Clements became a Henrico County teacher by stepping outside her comfort zone. Now she challenges her students at Byrd Middle School to do the same each day.
Clements, Byrd's gifted enrichment teacher, works with gifted sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, engaging them with projects designed to hone their talents while expanding their creative minds.
"A lot of people think it's very easy to be gifted, but I don't think it is, because people have such high expectations," she said. "[Gifted students] have this pressure, because they feel that school should be easy. I don't think it is."
Clements, now in her 30th year as a teacher, was born in England to "very proper" British parents and quickly developed a love for English.
"I was expected to take a book everywhere I went," she joked.
After the family moved to the U.S., Clements attended college in New York with aspirations to become a teacher. She eventually landed in the Richmond region with her husband and began teaching English at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield, where she remained for 17 years.
"I went in because I loved books and language and writing so much," Clements said, "but I fell in love with the children."
She applied to work in Henrico several times in those years and finally was interviewed and offered a position in Henrico High School's International Baccalaureate program.
"I was a little bit nervous because I had been in the same place 17 years," she conceded. But she took the job and spent eight years at Henrico. Then she followed former IB program chair Sharon Pope when Pope became the principal at Byrd Middle.
"I had never taught middle school," she said, "but I thought, well, it's an adventure."
And her five years there have been exactly that.
Her classes provide students with big-picture concepts to explore. Sixth-graders, for example, "form" their own advertising agencies, researching how actual agencies operate and devising their own business plans. Eighth-grade students "create" restaurants – and develop and design menus, marketing plans and even functional websites for their fictional businesses.
"Karen involves the students in amazing group projects and engages them as young adults, not simply 'middle school kids,'" one nominator wrote. "The work is always interesting and thought-provoking and taps into the creative spirit in the children. Her words and actions have inspired, instructed and comforted my son."
Clements takes great satisfaction from helping students who may otherwise have been bored or frustrated in school develop their passions. She recalled talking with a sixth-grader whose test scores indicated that she was gifted – but whose classroom performances were poor – and being surprised when the girl told her, "There is absolutely nothing in my class that is relevant to me."
Being able to challenge students in similar situations with meaningful real-world concepts keeps Clements' own motivation high. And she hasn't stopped learning herself, either. Since arriving in Henrico, she's taken a number of continuing educating courses funded by the county.
"Henrico County invests an awful lot in teachers," she said. "They've sent me everywhere to learn."
Although she is closer to the end of her career than the beginning, Clements is still energized by her students and the daily experiences she has with them in class.
"I just love the part where you make a connection with somebody and you can give them a hope and a promise that reflects back to them what's wonderful about them," she said. "As long as I feel like the children welcome me. . . then I want to stay."
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
Tix Laxton rises at 4:30 a.m. every day for a biscuit. But he’s not rushing out to any restaurant to get his favorite Southern comfort food; he’s baking his own from scratch and serving them up from his bakery on Lakeside Avenue.
Laxton opened Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery in early July and since then biscuits have been flying out of there.
The self-taught baker draws hungry crowds in with a biscuit of the day like the Old Bay Cheddar, but the buttermilk biscuits are the staple.
“On a Saturday I generally make about 400 biscuits with my two hands,” Laxton said. “I’m constantly making biscuits all day long.” > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.
The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.
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Sep. 18, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
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CalendarThe Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will present Marc Broussard, with special guests Mingo Fishtrap and Andy Suzuki, at 7:30 p.m. at Alice Jepson Theatre.… Full text