Henrico County VA

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.”
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

CAT Theatre to host auditions

CAT Theatre will hold auditions for Book of Days on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. each day. Auditions will be held at CAT Theatre, 319 North Wilkinson Road in Henrico. Book of Days will run Jan. 23-Feb. 7 and is one of CAT’s submissions to the Acts of Faith Festival.

Book of Days, by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson is an exploration of faith, justice, and corruption, amidst the backdrop of murder – and community theatre – in small town America. Book of Days was first written for and produced by Jeff Daniels Purple Rose Theatre Company of Michigan.

Director Leslie Cline is seeking five females between the ages of 20-65 and seven males between the ages of 24-65. > Read more.

CAT Theatre opens 51st season Oct. 24


CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. The play is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Steven Dietz, and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The story follows Holmes, whose career as the world’s greatest detective seems to have reached its end until 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 companion Dr. Watson find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. > 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.

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Henrico's Top Teachers