Henrico County VA
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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Sandra Fontes

Johnson E.S., ESL
In Sandra Fontes' classroom, every student is cherished as a unique individual with diverse talents to contribute in the classroom.

"I value and embrace diversity," said Fontes, "and I teach my students to respect and appreciate the fact that we are all different."

Although the tremendous diversity of her English as a Second Language (ESL) classes might seem daunting to observers or to other teachers, Fontes contends that providing a safe and caring learning environment and using instructional strategies that address students' different learning styles and needs are all that's required for every child to learn.

"I believe in a student-centered classroom where I am a mere facilitator in the learning process," Fontes said, "where the students are willing to take risks and make mistakes."

Technology is a valuable tool not only in helping to engage the children, she says, but in bringing the "real world" into the classroom and helping to build background knowledge and vocabulary among her ESL students.

In addition, she characterized her classroom as a strong learning community in which all – students and teacher – learn from each other and the passion for knowledge is contagious.

Enlisting the involvement of her students' families is crucial in creating this thirst for knowledge and passion to succeed, said Fontes, who noted that a big part of her job is keeping up regular communication with parents and "making sure they know the importance of their support and help in their child’s education."

Although many of her Johnson parents are limited in their English, they would be among the first to attest to the valuable role that Fontes has played in empowering their families.

As a colleague who wrote to nominate Fontes put it, she has made herself "an irreplaceable member of the Johnson community.

"She is available at the drop of a hat," the nominator wrote, "to help translate between our Hispanic families and the school community. She provides support for parents when they need help with outside resources. Mrs. Fontes does whatever possible to include all families in all school activities – even if it involves her going to their house and providing transportation.

"Often when the phone is answered at Johnson, all you may hear is a parent requesting 'Mrs. Fontes' because they know that she is their support system at school. She continually works past school hours to meet with families, often even on the weekend. She will occasionally convince her husband to meet with families on the weekends if she is unavailable."

Her colleague wrote that Fontes has been known to deliver food and clothes to families in need, and has taken students to dinner and to school functions they would otherwise be unable to attend.

"She helps families arrange medical appointments," added the nominator, "and will attend with the parents so that information will be clearly communicated."

All in a day's work, says Fontes, who hopes only that her passion for teaching and love of learning are passed on to her children each day.

"As a teacher," she said, "I have the opportunity to make a powerful impact on a child’s life. [Together with their parents], I can give them the confidence to embrace their dreams and to believe in themselves.

"I wish my students will remember me as a teacher who helped fill their bookbags with hopes and dreams."
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

Film industry training program planned for this weekend

The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

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Innsbrook After Hours will present the Eli Young Band, with guest Erik Dylan, at 6:30 p.m. at the Snagajob Innsbrook Pavilion. Gates open at 5 p.m. General admission is $15… Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers