Henrico County VA
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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Rita Roberson

Ratcliffe E.S., fifth grade
Students at Ratcliffe Elementary School in Eastern Henrico – and even those who have moved on to middle school and beyond – know that they'll always have a friend and mentor in Rita Roberson.

Roberson, a fifth-grade teacher who has spent her entire 20-year teaching career at Ratcliffe, takes pride in both roles.

"I may be their teacher for just a short time, but I'm always going to be there for them," Roberson said.

Though Ratcliffe sits squarely in the middle of one of Henrico's most at-risk regions (near Laburnum Avenue and Mechanicsville Turnpike) and some of its students live in poverty or single-parent households, Roberson is not fazed.

"Every student is a challenge, whether they are from single-family household or not," she said. "But every one can and will learn."

Students know Roberson as an active teacher who incorporates a variety of hands-on materials, movements and even songs and dances to connect with students. She believes that empowering students to teach various lessons to each other helps them learn more than they might otherwise, and she utilizes a number of progressive ideas championed by nationally known educator Ron Clark. Roberson was among a handful of Henrico teachers who attended Clark's academy in her hometown of Atlanta last year to learn more about his innovative style of educating students.

Some parents tell Roberson that because they struggled with math in school themselves, they don't feel qualified to help their students with it. But there are no excuses for Roberson, who is weeks away from completing a master's degree as a math specialist at VCU and who believes math skills are just as important to a student's growth as reading skills.

"You would never come back [as a parent] and say, 'I just never got reading,'" she said. So she makes it her mission to provide students – and parents – the support they need to master the math skills that will serve them later in life. It works.

"Many of Mrs. Roberson's students come back to visit and discuss how they learned so much in her math class," a nominator wrote. "You often hear, "I wish you could always teach me math."

Roberson was among the first group of teachers in Henrico to work with interactive Promethean boards when the school system began a pilot program years ago. Now she uses hers every day.

"I can't see myself teaching without my board," she said. In addition to making lessons more interactive, the board can help her identify which individual students need extra help by providing real-time quiz results by student.

Technology also has provided her students – many of whom haven't traveled outside this region – with a window to the world. Her class Skypes with students in Colorado and Minnesota, watches and discusses world news on cable television and researches national and international news and events.

Of Roberson, a nominator wrote that "she manages to maintain the interest of majority of her students and inspires them to set higher goals and reach them."

Roberson has taught first, second and fifth grades at Ratcliffe, which she describes as a place "like no other" because of its family environment and supportive faculty, staff and parents.

She particularly enjoys fifth-grade students because they are just coming into their own as individuals.

"They have a sense of purpose," she said. "They're trying to understand who they are and their place in the world. You actually see them changing from that little person who needed your help."

Particularly gratifying for Roberson are the success stories shared by former students who return to visit her classroom. One graduated from William & Mary. Another earned a full scholarship to the University of Richmond and took a job with Teach for America, which has sent her to far-flung corners of the world.

"It's like, alright, I did make a difference," Roberson said.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > 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.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Enjoy a twilight canoe trip on Four Mile Creek, a quiet tributary of the James River, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Look for great blue herons, osprey, beaver, deer… Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers