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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

New Henrico biscuit shop thrives with grandmother’s recipe

Tim 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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The Short Pump Ruritan Club's 24th Annual Craft Show will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Short Pump Middle School, 4701 Pouncey Tract Rd., Glen Allen. More… Full text

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