Henrico’s Top Teachers – Rita Roberson

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.
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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.

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Lakewood to break ground on $64M expansion


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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.

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Regency Square will host Trick or Treat and Movie Night from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Kids 12 and under are invited to trick or treat in a safe environment. The movie “Hotel Transylvania” will be shown at 5 p.m. with free popcorn. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.facebook.com/ShopRegencySquare. Full text

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