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

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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Working professionals are invited to break away from the office and stretch their legs at Brown Bag Fitness from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Echo Lake Park, 5701 Springfield… Full text

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Henricopedia

Henrico's Top Teachers