Henrico County VA

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Ragan Collins

Ratcliffe E.S., second grade
During her six years at Ratcliffe Elementary School, Ragan Collins has quickly become the school’s rock. Officially, Collins is a second grade teacher. Unofficially, she’s a friend, mentor, assistant and encyclopedia all rolled into one.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, Ms. Collins can give you helpful information on any of our 460 students that attend Ratcliffe,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “Parents adore Ms. Collins, students are mesmerized by her and her colleagues use her for a resource at any given time of the day.”

Collins, who thought her love of children would lead to a career in pediatrics or child psychology, admits that she has a way with kids.

“I refer to myself as a child-magnet,” she says with a laugh. “Even when I’m out in public, strangers’ children will reach for me.

Her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia is in psychology. “So, I can gauge what students need from me,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s just me listening to them.

“Every child is waiting to get that positive experience from school [but] there are some who have just never had a positive experience that has made them buy into it. That’s the first thing that I’m going to do – try to get them to buy in.”

In the classroom, colleagues marvel at her ability to improve the reading skills of her students by one or two grade levels each year. The secret, she says, is not really a secret at all.

“It’s just giving them a comfortable space where they can have some meaningful practice. It’s not that they can’t read, it’s not that they don’t want to read – it’s just that they’re seven.”

To help give them extra practice, Collins constantly utilizes reading exercises across all topics, including social studies, math and other core subjects. And when a child who has struggled with reading finally breaks through?

“It is my favorite part of the job,” Collins says. “I’ll see them blossom. . . and it is just an absolutely beautiful experience.”

Collins has regularly had several special needs students in her classes with mainstream students, but her approach is the same with all students.

“There are 18 different personalities in my room at any one time,” she said. “It’s a constant balancing act to meet all of those needs.

“I’m in a place where I feel like I really matter to the kids, a place where I feel like I’ve been instrumental in some of their successes. Every year I get that affirmation that, you know what? This is a pretty rockin’ job.”
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

Brews and bites done right

Urban Tavern’s big, bold themes impress

The Urban Tavern opened in August, replacing the former Shackelford’s space at 10498 Ridgefield Parkway in Short Pump. Because of local and longtime devotion to Shackleford’s, Urban Tavern has some big shoes to fill.

Without any background information, I headed to the restaurant for dinner on a Wednesday night, two months after its opening.

On a perfect fall evening, four out of eight outdoor tables were taken, giving the impression that the restaurant was busier than it was. On the inside, a couple tables were taken, and a few folks were seated at the bar. > Read more.

A terrible, horrible movie. . . that’s actually pretty good

‘Alexander’ provides uncomplicated family fun
It’s not surprising in the least that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t much resemble the book it’s based upon.

Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book isn’t exactly overflowing with movie-worthy material. Boy has bad day. Boy is informed that everyone has bad days sometimes. Then, the back cover.

In the film, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-ness is blown up to more extreme size. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) has a bum day every day, while the rest of his family (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey) exist in a constant bubble of perfection and cheery optimism – to the point that the family is so wrapped up in their own success that Alexander’s being ignored.

So on the eve of his 12th birthday, Alexander makes a wish: just once, he’d like his family to see things from his perspective; to experience the crushing disappointment of one of those no good, very bad days. Once he has blown out the candle on his pre-birthday ice cream sundae, his family’s fate is sealed: one full day of crippling disasters for all of them. > Read more.

Deep Run HS plans fall musical

Tickets for Deep Run High School’s fall musical production – Aida – will go on sale Nov. 3. The Elton John-Tim Rice pop opera, inspired by Verdi’s classic opera, tells the story of enslaved Nubian princess Aida, who falls for captain of the guard Radames, who is betrothed to the Egyptian princess.

Performances will be held Nov. 13-15 at 7 p.m. each day. > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers