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.”
Dr. Even Alexander, a New York Times best-selling author who has been featured on Oprah and Dr. Oz, was in town last week to promote his June 27 talk, "Proof of Heaven," at Glen Allen High School.
Alexander (pictured, at right, while Unity of Bon Air church member Harry Simmons interviews him) has written about what he considers to be his journey through the afterlife.
Tickets to this month's event are $25 and will support the new Bon Secours Hospice House being built later this year. > Read more.
The Innsbrook Rotary Club, which is celebrating its 25th year in 2015, has completed a number of volunteer projects this year and raised thousands of dollars for various organizations through three events.
The club's annual rose sale, benefit for youth live auction and Virginia Fire Games competition, combined with individual and corporate donations, have raised nearly $70,000 – money that the club contributes back to the community.
FeedMore is the beneficiary of the club's 25th anniversary project, which provides refrigerated trailers to be used for the distribution of food throughout Central Virginia. > Read more.
Chef Bryan Voltaggio will host a special three-course dinner event July 21-22 at his Willow Lawn Family Meal restaurant. The menu will consist of his favorite dishes and offer diners the chance to purchase a signed copy of his newly released book, HOME.
Voltaggio will attend and cook at each dinner, as well as share stories that inspired recipes for the book. > Read more.
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CalendarLewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., will present Flowers After 5 on Thursday evenings through August. Stroll through the gardens, enjoy live music from Aberdeen Green, family activities, wine… Full text