Henrico’s Top Teachers – Kofi Acheampong

As a young teen growing up in Ghana, Kofi Acheampong taught his mother English. Little did he know that the experience would prepare him – in two ways – for his own future.

Acheampong’s family moved to the United States when he was 15, settling in Alexandria. Though the adjustment was a significant one, it was made easier by his proficiency on the soccer field, where he excelled.

“That was my way of making new friends,” he recalled.

It also led him to VCU, where he earned a soccer scholarship and studied mathematics. Acheampong liked the Richmond region and decided to stay after graduating from VCU, landing a job as a math teacher at Henrico High School in 2004. He’s been there ever since, teaching and coaching the JV boys’ soccer team.

For Acheampong, it’s a sign that there is symmetry in life; his high school soccer coach also taught math and served as an inspiration for him.

“I always wanted to be just like him,” Acheampong said.

Today, in his own classroom at Henrico High, Acheampong uses a variety of methods to make a subject that can be bland much more relevant. He engages students in his advanced algebra/trigonometry class, for example, with geometrical lessons from the Angry Birds video game.

“I try to relate math to the real world, so they can see the importance of it,” Acheampong said. “We try different ways of solving problems – if this way doesn’t work, let’s find a different way.

That no-one-size-fits-all strategy has paid dividends for many of his students.

“Mr. Kofi takes the time to help students understand the material,” one student wrote in a nomination letter. “He teaches in a way that is easy to understand, spending a lot of time on prep work for tests. He helps students feel more confident and displays a very positive attitude. It is clear he makes students feel special.

“I hated math before being in Mr. Kofi’s class. Now I am his top performing student!”

Acheampong intentionally changes some of his lessons and how he uses technology from one year to the next.

“If I were to do the same thing over and over, I’d get bored of it,” he said. His approach keeps him fresh, his students engaged and forces him to seek new ways to teach the same material.

And he even finds ways to implement math lessons to his soccer players.

“On free kicks, I try to put geometry into it, so they can see how they’re going to curve the ball,” he said. “My kids laugh at me for that.”

Acheampong chuckles at the thought, too, and his smile affirms that this is where he belongs – teaching and coaching. It’s what he always wanted to do and what he intends to do as long as he can – at a place where he belongs.

“I don’t have any other plans,” he said. “I always feel like I’m at home here – that’s why I haven’t left.”
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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will present Flowers After 5 on Thursday evenings through September. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy live music from Whiskey Rebellion, as well as family activities, wine and beer, dining and shopping. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome. The Garden partners with the Richmond SPCA on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month for Fidos After 5 where leashed pets are allowed. Admission is $8 to $13 or free for members. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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