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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Taylor Snow

Moody M.S., social studies
Asked to imagine a place where they can escape from the stresses of daily life, few people would suggest a middle school classroom.

Count Taylor Snow as one of those few.

His toughest challenges as a middle school teacher, says Snow, are only rarely student-related. “In fact, the time I spend with my students is a real sanctuary,” he says, “from the sometimes overwhelming central office paperwork and data collection required of us.” And when it comes to his students – many of whom face difficult issues in their home lives -- Snow hopes that the classroom is a refuge as well.

“The reason I teach,” says Snow, “is that I believe that the classroom should be a sanctuary from [the challenges of daily life].

“The students are the ones that make my classes what they are with their varied abilities and talents,” adds Snow. “All I do is try to provide them a forum where they can grow and use those abilities and talents.”

A student who wrote to nominate Snow noted that the teacher cultivates the atmosphere of an open forum in the classroom by telling his students at the outset of the school year that he will teach not only world history, but also arts, literature, the sciences, and most importantly, current events.

“Instead of lectures and static Powerpoints, Mr. Snow encourages class conversations and extracurricular activities,” said the student. “He always lets us state our beliefs, and we can truly be who we are in his class.”

The student added that in addition to supporting a Model UN program for Moody students – and signing them up for competition with high school delegates “because he firmly believes we are just as good” – Snow has formed an international studies course that is primarily student-directed. The international studies group, which includes members of every social group at school, explores current events and requires students to present both sides of every argument. As a result, many formerly-reserved students have become more confident about sharing their ideas.

“To have an adult treat us like equals, and teach us to always do the impossible, has inspired the whole class,” wrote the student. “I want to become a UN ambassador because of [Snow].”

The son of a high school English teacher who taught for more than 30 years in Pulaski County, Snow credits both his mother’s example and his reading of Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities (about inequality in public education) for inspiring him to teach.

He also treasures his second-grade memories of being allowed to visit the classroom “Reading Barrel” when he finished his work early, and credits those visits with kindling the love of reading for pleasure that he tries to share with his students daily.

Snow says that his most rewarding moments are those in which he sees students becoming empowered as learners – moments “when they learn not for the sake of passing a test or improving a grade, but simply by becoming someone who loves to learn for learning’s sake.”

With so much time and effort focused on test results, data and the achievement of certain benchmarks, says Snow, “we forget that what matters the most is helping foster a love of knowledge that helps create a lifelong learner.”

A recent email from a former student illustrated the kind of impact that Snow enjoys having on students. In his thank-you note, the student recalled that Snow would occasionally play music in class, and the student would go home and look up the artist, then listen on his own. “This led me to my transformed music taste,” said the student, “which is surprisingly how I met most of my current friends: through discussing music!”

The student also thanked Snow for sparking lifelong interests in history and in running. When a classroom announcement was made urging rising ninth graders to look into cross country at Hermitage H.S., he reminded his teacher, “Guess who told me I should go check it out? You! And now, eight running seasons later, I’m still doing it.”

But Snow insists he gets just as much from working with his “creative, enthusiastic, and funny” students as they do from him.

“I never dread going to work in the morning or returning to school after long breaks,” he says, “because I can say with all honesty that I really do love what I do.”
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