Henrico’s Top Teachers – Sharon Johnson

The hardest part of being a preschool teacher, says Sharon Johnson, is that the end of the day comes too soon.

After 25 years teaching at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center’s preschool (where she got her start as an intern from the VCU School of Social Work), Johnson still finds it hard to accomplish everything in three hours -- and disappointing when she has to call a halt to the day’s activities.

“I get so much joy from being a preschool teacher,” says Johnson, citing such favorite moments as seeing a child’s eyes light up, or bringing smiles to her students’ faces with something she said, did or taught them. “[But] there are times when the children are really engaged in exploring a lesson and we have to stop,” she says. “Sometimes I am able to revisit [the lesson] the next day, but sometimes the interest or level of excitement has gone by then.”

Short day or not, Johnson gets an amazing amount accomplished in those three hours, say her colleagues.

“Sharon has magical abilities,” wrote a nominator. “Through her enthusiasm and generosity of spirit she touches so many lives of staff, children and parents.”

An inclusive program, the JCC preschool has many students with special needs, ranging from developmental delays, Down syndrome, autism, speech and language delays, and medically fragile conditions. But preschoolers of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds “flourish” in Johnson’s care, wrote a colleague.

“Sharon creates a warm, engaging classroom . . . [and] meets every challenge with a warmth and sense of purpose that reaches into the inner being of each child,” said a nominator.

“She teaches them to ‘kiss their brain,’ and rejoices in their accomplishments.”

While working with special needs children might be challenging, says Johnson, it’s not nearly as hard as being the one who breaks the news to parents about a child’s learning issues. But as a teacher of two-to-four-year-olds, Johnson is on the front lines, and more than once has had the difficult task of presenting her concerns when she recognizes a problem.

“At times the parent may be hearing this information for the first time,” says Johnson. “I have to be sensitive to the parents’ needs while reassuring them that I will do everything that I can to support them and their child.”

But often, she adds, those newly-identified children turn out to be some of the most rewarding to teach. Not only can she watch them progress throughout the year, says Johnson, but their parents often return years later to thank her for making them aware of the delays and working with them on strategies – and to inform her of the child’s successes since.

Another group that frequently returns to the JCC to visit Johnson is made up of former students, who come as middle schoolers to volunteer in her class and as college students to work alongside her in the summer camp program. In many cases the college students are pursuing degrees in education, she says, and they remind Johnson of something positive she said or did as their teacher that helped lead to their decision to teach.

For Johnson herself, the decision to teach did not come at one defining moment, but it was definitely influenced by an elementary school teacher she had named Mrs. Cason.

“She made learning fun and showed a lot of genuine interest in each of her students,” Johnson recalls. “She made me feel special by always taking the time to listen and encourage me in all aspects of my learning.

“I did not know at that time that I would become a teacher one day,” she adds, “but I did know that whatever I did, it would involve caring for children and families.”

Her colleagues will tell you that Johnson takes care of both, serving as a role model for children and as a mentor to parents as well as fellow teachers.

“She is one of those rare teachers that can mesmerize children and their parents with her calm and gentle manner,” said a nominator.

“She deeply respects young children . . . [and] has left an indelible mark in thousands of children’s lives.”
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Va. State Police release opioid/heroin awareness videos


Virginia State Police officials have released two opioid/heroin awareness videos.

One video – Broken Dreams, details the story of Sheriff Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin W. Hall’s son, Ryan, and his battle with addiction. The video describes Ryan Hall's struggle to overcome addiction and persevere.

The second video, No Second Chance, debuted recently on the Eastern Shore and follows the tragic consequences of a 20-year-old Accomack County woman who died from a heroin overdose in July 2016. > Read more.

Business in brief


To mark the changing of the name of Cadence at the Glen to Verena at the Glen, the independent living rental retirement community in Glen Allen is hosting an open-to-the-public celebration Nov. 16. The Showcase of Homes will feature cuisine from the culinary team, refreshments and live jazz, along with tours of the community. The public will also have the opportunity to meet residents and staff. Verena at the Glen is owned by an affiliate of Chicago-based Green Courte Partners, LLC. With the name change to Verena (Latin for true) the community is bringing an updated wellness philosophy, along with enhanced dining, fitness programs, services and activities. The Showcase of Homes at Verena at the Glen will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The community is located at 10286 Brook Road, Glen Allen. RSVP at http://VerenaAtTheGlen.com/RSVP. > Read more.

GRASP offers Spanish-speaking advisor for financial aid questions


GRASP, a nonprofit, charitable, college-access organization that assists students and families in obtaining funding for post-secondary education, now has a Spanish-speaking advisor available to assist students and families with the financial aid process.

The advisor, Conchy Martinez, is bilingual and is available to assist with outreach to the Latino community. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host 7 meetings for budget feedback


Henrico Schools will host seven meetings prior to the release of Superintendent Pat Kinlaw's proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget in January to solicit community input about the budget. A short presentation by HCPS budget staff members will be followed by opportunities to comment and ask questions. The school division will develop a budget proposal using feedback from stakeholders. > Read more.

Glen Allen dentist offering low-cost braces to qualified children


Glen Allen-based White Orthodontics will donate more than $300,000 in orthodontic care to children of families who cannot afford the full cost of braces. Dr. Paul White and his team will host an open house Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their office, 5237 Hickory Park Drive in Glen Allen, to meet with interested families.

The effort is part of the national Smiles Change Lives program, which counts some 800 orthodontists nationwide among its ranks. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

December 2017
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Innsbrook After Hours will ring in the New Year with R&B legends Kool & The Gang at 7 p.m. Dec. 31. Party rock band The Mashup will open. The evening will include a light show and midnight ball drop.

Kool & The Gang have been performing together for 25 years and have produced hits such as “Celebration,” “Cherish” and “Jungle Boogie.” Their unique blend of jazz, soul and funk has landed them 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top 10 Pop hits, two Grammy Awards and 31 gold and platinum albums.

Early bird general admission tickets are $20.17 through the end of the October. Prices will increase after that and will be $40 at the gate on New Year’s Eve. A limited number of floor passes will be available for $49, providing Dance Floor Pit access. A variety of dinner and VIP Hospitality tickets and packages are available; dining and hospitality areas will be tented and heated, and include dinner, drinks and private restrooms.

Tickets can be purchased online through http://www.ticketstobuy.com or by phone at 423-1779. For details, visit http://www.innsbrookafterhours.com. Full text

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