Henrico’s Top Teachers – Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell pulls no punches when she talks to parents of the seventh-graders who take her physical science course at Moody Middle School.

"I tell parents I am one of the hardest teachers at Moody," she said, matter-of-factly.

The hundreds of students who have taken her courses during the past 18 years probably wouldn't disagree – and yet, they heap praise upon her just the same.

"She always works with her students to make sure that we 100 percent understand the challenging topics she teaches to us," one student wrote in a nomination letter. "Also, she makes learning hands on and fun for us."

Mitchell, a native of the Philippines who came to the United States after marrying her husband, a former colonel in the U.S. Air Force, has found a way to get students excited about science – no small feat at the middle school level.

"She goes beyond anything that is expected of her," wrote another student, "from making ice cream in class to demonstrate the temperature of liquid nitrogen to making our own musical instruments to represent how we manipulate sound."

When she was hired at Moody in 1999, she recalled asking administrators what made the school and its International Baccalaureate program unique from other similar programs. Unsatisfied with the answer, she set out to make the science program unique by implementing research projects in her courses.

This year, the school created a separate course specifically for such projects.

Mitchell's approach to teaching science – much like her personality – is straightforward.

"You learn science by doing science," she said.

So, her students "do." Nearly 60 of them are presenting research projects at a Virginia Junior Academy of Science research symposium and annual meeting at VCU this week – an event mostly populated otherwise by high school students from throughout the state.

Mitchell keeps long hours at the school, hosting study sessions, offering afterschool help, reviewing papers and projects multiple times for any students who seek her help. She provides her students with dozens of grading opportunities throughout the course, so that they don't suffer from one bad test or project.

"I get emails from parents saying that 'My child hated science but then took your class and now he loves it,'" Mitchell said.

"Although she may be known as a hard teacher," one parent wrote of Mitchell, "in the long run, all of her students thank her for the experience as she truly pushes her students to retain and understand knowledge, better assisting them in proceeding to their future easily and successfully."

"Mrs. Mitchell has impacted my daughter tremendously," another parent wrote. "She teaches her students that the more you learn about science, the more fascinating the world around you becomes. Mrs. Mitchell tirelessly continues to encourage until her students succeed. She has truly made a difference in my daughter’s life."

Mitchell uses Facebook to keep tabs on many former students as they spread out across the country and begin their own careers in science. But when her current students try to friend her on the social media site, she isn't having it.

"I say, 'No, I don't want to be your friend – I'm still your teacher,'" she said with a chuckle. "They say I'm mean."

Though she's been at Moody for nearly two decades now, Mitchell is always adapting her class to keep it fresh and relevant for a new wave of students.

"It's okay to teach for 25 years, but don't teach the same thing 25 times – things change, so you have to change too," Mitchell said.
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Challenger Day will get students with disabilities onto the field

Students from 22 Henrico County elementary schools will take to the baseball field Oct. 18 and learn how to field, hit and run the bases. The students will take part in Challenger Day, an annual event at the Tuckahoe Park Baseball Complex that introduces students with significant disabilities to the fundamentals of baseball. The students will also enjoy games, an art project, roaming mascots and a picnic lunch. > Read more.

Business in brief

Eisenman & Associates, Inc. employee Tracie Grady recently was named the 2017 Virginia Business Meeting Planner of the Year. Grady was chosen by a committee of industry leaders among 19 nominees. The award is a partnership between Virginia Business magazine and the Virginia Society of Association Executives. Its goal is to recognize the unsung hero of the association, non-profit, and business world, the professional meeting planner. Grady works with clients in a number of areas, including membership management, publication design, membership directories and convention/tradeshow programs. She has worked in the association industry, primarily focused on meeting planning, for more than 20 years. She is a graduate of VCU. Eisenman & Associates, Inc. is an association management and meetings consulting company. > Read more.

Lakewood to break ground on $64M expansion

A senior community in Henrico's Far West End is planning a massive expansion project.

Lakewood, located on Lauderdale Drive, will break ground on the project Oct. 19 during a celebration that also will commemorate the community's 40th anniversary. > Read more.

Henrico to hold Oct. 19 workshop on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill Study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold a workshop Thursday, Oct. 19 for residents and other members of the public to provide additional input for a study of the Route 5 corridor and Marion Hill areas.

The workshop will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at John Rolfe Middle School, 6901 Messer Road. The meeting will include an overview of community input received so far and an explanation of how it is reflected in the study’s draft goals and objectives. > Read more.

Nominations open for REB awards for principals

Nominations are open for the 2017-18 REB Awards for Distinguished Educational Leadership, The Community Foundation’s yearly awards that identify, recognize and support leadership excellence in the Richmond area.

Honorees receive an unrestricted $7,500 cash grant, and $7,500 to be used for school initiatives. Nominees can be principals from public schools in Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and the city of Richmond who have served in their current positions for at least three years. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

October 2017

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The Weinstein JCC will present the fifth annual Jazz in the Sukkah with Koontz and Kellner from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Enjoy light refreshments and great jazz tunes from some of RVA’s most talented musicians. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.weinsteinjcc.org. Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers

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