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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Kenyatta Smither

Rolfe M.S., Instructional Assistant
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.”
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

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.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

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.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


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.

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Entertainment

New Henrico biscuit shop thrives with grandmother’s recipe

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.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

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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Calendar

Learn how to build marble runs from recycled materials at 3:30 p.m. at Dumbarton Library, 6800 Staples Mill Rd. Suggested for ages 7-10. For details, call 290-9400 or visit Full text

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