Henrico’s Top Teachers – Kenyatta Smither

Kenyatta Smither does not consider his position as an educator to be a job.

“It is my mission,” he says. “It’s my mission to help give [students] the spark to learn and develop the tools that will make them successful in life.”

As a special education instructional assistant at Rolfe Middle School, Smither sees “a great disconnect” in the lives of many children, who often lack motivation to achieve because of the limited expectations others have for them. “They face obstacles daily,” Smither says of his students, “and education may not be their primary motivation.” 

Noting that he became an educator because he wanted to be a positive influence, Smither counters those limited expectations with his own. He strives to inspire his students by posting special “power” messages on the classroom door and blackboard.

“Respect, responsibility, and reward is my personal motto that I live by in the classroom,” he says, “[and] the expectation I have for every student I encounter.”

One of his most rewarding moments as an educator, says Smither, was seeing the “magnificent job” his students did on a science project last year about the solar system and George Washington Carver.

Working on their projects for weeks, the students designed elaborate displays of the planets, built space shuttles, and created shadow boxes featuring Carver’s inventions.  In addition to a display, each student completed an oral presentation describing his or her project.

The results, according to Smither, were “awesome.”

“Teachers and administrators come to our class just to view the students’ accomplishments. The students were very proud of their work [and] eager to share with people how hard they worked on their projects.” 

“Some people couldn’t believe the students were capable of doing the projects,” he recalls. “Others stated they had never seen the students so motivated.”

None of this comes as a surprise to Smither’s admirers, one of whom writes, “He will always go above and beyond to encourage and support his special needs students. He will always challenge them to their fullest, but understands that every child learns differently – [and] given the chance will soar.”

Smither never misses an opportunity to instill the “Knowledge is Power” message in his students, says a nominator, adding, “Kenyatta Smither is Rolfe’s hidden treasure. His encouragement, his teaching, his mentoring, his ideas, his energy and his tough love should be modeled throughout the HCPS school system.”
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Fresh Air Fund seeks host families


The Fresh Air Fund, a program through which nearly 4,000 children from low-income New York City communities spend a summer with host families in communities along the East Coast and in southern Canada, is seeking hosts for the coming summer.

According to the organization, there is no such thing as a “typical” host family. First-time Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from seven to 12 years old. Children who are reinvited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. > Read more.

Godwin student wins in statewide STEM essay contest

Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Council on Women announced recently that Morgan Logsdon of Mills E. Godwin High School was one of five statewide winners of the sixth-annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women enrolled in their junior or senior year of high school.

The Council on Women established the contest to award scholarships to high school junior and senior young women who plan to pursue STEM careers at institutions of higher education. > Read more.

Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

Henrico Police arrest 2 Georgia men in connection with January murder


Henrico Police have arrested and charged two Georgia men with first-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 18 murder of 36-year-old Lamont Cornelius Baldwin in the 1200 block of Dominion Townes Terrace.

Antonio Tyrone Johnson (above, left) and Santonio Rodrigus Brown (above, right), both 24 and both of Atlanta, were charged. Johnson also was charged with use of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a felon. > Read more.

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The MathScience Innovation Center will celebrate its 50th anniversary with "A Night of Learning" from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the MSiC campus, 2401 Hartman Street, Richmond. The event will include "Science on a Sphere" demonstrations (an educational tool on loan from NASA), STEM demonstrations, a silent auction and refreshments. Individual tickets are $25 each, and couples' tickets are $40. Proceeds will benefit the center's programs and help fund technology upgrades. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.mymsic.org. Corporate sponsorships from $100 to $5,000 are available as well. For details, call 343-6525. Full text

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