Henrico’s Top Teachers – Robert Rice
Elko M.S., social studies
Former students frequently drop by to visit Robert Rice or invite him to lunch, coffee, birthday parties, high school and college graduations. But this year was the first time, he says, that he was invited to the wedding of a former student.
“Not wanting to dwell on how old this made me feel,” he recalls, “I had to ask why was I invited. I was told by the bride, ‘Why wouldn’t I invite my favorite teacher?’”
Touched by the praise, and by being included in such a personal event, Rice went on to have a wonderful time reuniting with former students and their parents at the ceremony. The bride also told him that she was becoming a teacher, and that he was partly responsible for her choosing that path.
Despite the numbers of students who continue to stay in touch, and others who Rice “checks in with” from time to time, he is surprised – and maybe a little amused – that any student would want to contact him after moving on. “They know that just because they leave my classroom, doesn’t mean they’ve left my clutches!”
He is often “floored,” he adds, that the former students still remember things that were done in class years ago. “And they know,” he says, “how easy it is to get me to cry too.”
A recent encounter that Rice admits drew some tears was related to a civics project that he has assigned for many years. The project requires students to pretend that they are 18 and fresh out of high school, and that they must live on their own for one month. Using the newspaper, internet and job and apartment guides, they must find age-appropriate jobs, apartments for rent, and transportation – then figure out to pay their bills.
As this school year began, Rice received an email from a former student. “She informed me that when her mom lost her job during the summer, they used my project to help budget their household,” he says. “She let me know that my project played a large part in helping them through some pretty tough times.”
Rice also has a gift for teaching history to his students, who say that he teaches in a way that is interactive and engaging and helps all students understand the material. More than one former student has stated that he or she was never interested in history until having Rice for a teacher.
“But he made history so fun,” wrote one, “that I thoroughly enjoyed going to class. Now, almost five years later, I still attribute my love of history to Mr. Rice.”
One former student called Rice “the most motivational and inspirational teacher I have had” in HCPS, and said he made her “fall in love with history.” He teaches the subject with such enthusiasm, she wrote, that it makes students want to learn.
It was his passion for history that led him to the profession of teaching, says Rice – even though not all of his own teachers were good ones and some he described as “pretty terrible.”
He credits Moody Middle School teacher Bonnie Geiger (now retired) with shaping the way he teaches middle schoolers.
“All through college, I was preparing to teach high school,” says Rice. “When placed at Moody, I thought I was being punished by my advisor. Thankfully, Mrs. Geiger was there to show me that middle school was the best place for me to be.
“I still use her lessons and worksheets in my classes . . . 15 years later.”
Rice drew praise from nominators not only for his skills in the classroom, but also for his participation in PTA and school pageants, and for supporting his students outside of class by cheering them on at after-school activities and athletic events.
Other students expressed appreciation for the tutoring, advice and listening ear he gave them. “He is always there to lend a helping hand to a struggling student,” said one.
When another student was struggling with her feelings over losing a close relative, wrote a parent, she turned to Rice. “Mr. Rice had something about his caring for his students – not just their grades, but overall well-being – that made her think about life and that she still could exist among others and allow them to care.”
Another parent wrote that Rice has a high-energy and creative personality that makes even typically-unmotivated students want to please him, adding that students also bond with Rice because he respects their individuality. “He seems to make a personal connection with every child he teaches,” said the parent, who was echoed by a former student now in high school. “He is not only a phenomenal teacher, but a wonderful friend,” wrote the student. “He still keeps track of my grades and makes sure I am staying focused, even though I am no longer his student. There is no way I could be as successful without him.”
But the parents who have had multiple children in Rice’s classes are perhaps his biggest fans, citing the turnaround they have seen in children who complained about school but began to love it, and the way his students talk about him years after leaving his class. “There is no other teacher that I know,” said one, “[who can so] touch their students intellectually and inspire them with smiles on their faces.”
One parent of several children said that Rice’s impact has filtered down even to her four-year-old, who enjoyed and learned from the projects done by older siblings.
“I think,” she wrote of Rice and his relationship with his students, “that he literally would be their mentor for life.”
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.
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.
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.
It’s Halloween! Ghosts and goblins are everywhere…especially at Dorey Park’s Monster Mash and the annual Pumpkin Festival at Gayton Crossing Shopping Center. But don’t let the fun stop on the 31st – the Latin Ballet of Virginia will present El Dia de los Muertos Family Festival on Nov. 1. And if you need a break from the candy, enjoy some classical music at the University of Richmond and the Weinstein JCC on Sunday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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.
‘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.
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