Henrico’s Top Teachers – Teresa Cole

Think you have a hectic schedule? Meet Teresa Cole.

Cole is in her third year teaching English to seventh-graders at Short Pump Middle School, where she also serves as an administrative aide and the yearbook sponsor. After school, she assists as a coach for the track team and also is the dance team sponsor.

And when she’s not performing any of those responsibilities, she’s busy working on a graduate degree at the University of Richmond, where she also anticipates earning an administration certificate while applying for Ph.D. programs in curriculum and instruction, with an endorsement in gifted education. (She already holds three undergraduate degrees from VCU.)

Did we mention that Cole has a family and three small children of her own?

“I keep really long to-do lists,” Cole said, with a laugh. “There’s not much I say no to. Any opportunity I get to work with kids one on one, I try to take it.”

That’s how she became involved with the Short Pump yearbook program, a three-times-a-week course and afterschool program that was without a leader when the previous sponsor left the school last year. Cole took over midway through last year and already has helped the school acquire software from supplier Jostens that only two other schools in the nation are using.

It’s also why she got involved with track, even though she describes herself as a non-competitive runner (though one who does participate in occasional half-marathons and 10ks) and the dance team (“I don’t dance, at all,” she said).

As an English teacher, Cole wins rave reviews from students – more than a dozen of whom wrote to nominate her as a top teacher.

“She’s so fun,” one wrote. “She makes everything understandable. Even when things are hard, she makes them not as scary. I haven’t had a teacher like this since second grade. I’m going to remember her for a very long time.”

“I always look forward to coming into her class,” another wrote.

Wrote a third, simply: “She makes learning fun.”

Cole, a Hermitage High School graduate, planned a career in the nonprofit world upon graduation from VCU. But during a stint with AmeriCorps in Seattle, she found herself working with middle-schoolers and experiencing a more immediate satisfaction than she did with nonprofit work. She came back to Central Virginia, earned a teaching degree and an endorsement and spent four years teaching at Henderson Middle in Richmond before moving to Short Pump Middle.

Cole engages her students in English by connecting it to the world around them, she said. After a recent assignment that involved reading “The Use of Force,” a 1938 short story by William Carlos Williams, Cole had her students research other uses of force happening today at local, regional and national levels, then identify problems and devise and write about realistic solutions. Cole invited Virginia State Senator Walter Stosch to visit the class and discuss the ideas with students, which he did.

“Even as seventh-graders, they have a lot to say,” Cole said. “I tell them that English is not a content, it’s a skill – it’s something you need. It’s about finding a solution.”
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CAT Theatre, located at 319 N. Wilkinson Rd., will present “When There’s A Will” May 19 to June 3. The play centers around a family gathering commanded by the matriarch, Dolores, to address their unhappiness with Grandmother’s hold on the clan’s inheritance and her unreasonable demands on her family. This dark comedy by local playwright Philip Ventrella will conclude CAT’s 2016-17 season. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door; opening night tickets are $33 in advance and $35 at the door. For details, call 262-9760 or visit http://www.cattheatre.com. Full text

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