Henrico County VA
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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Tiffany Graves

Colonial Trail E.S., fourth grade
Although Tiffany Graves considers her own parents her first teachers and role models – instilling in her a strong work ethic and a belief in the importance of education and the home-school connection – she noted that she also had a number of excellent teachers during her fifth- through twelfth-grade years attending Henrico County schools.

Interestingly enough, the teacher that she names as her most inspiring ever happens to be a fellow 2013 ‘Top Teachers selection’ – her fifth-grade teacher, Karen Nowicki.

"Mrs. Nowicki stood out," Graves said. "She created a positive classroom atmosphere that was welcoming, engaging and conducive to learning. She set high expectations for us as her students [and] showed that she cared about the children in her class not just as students, but as individuals. She helped us to identify our strengths in a way that empowered us to grow and succeed."

Although she always knew growing up that she wanted to work with children, Graves says that it was Nowicki who inspired her to choose a teaching career. "She had a phenomenal influence on my life," said Graves, "and my decision to become a teacher."

According to the parents who wrote to nominate Graves as a ‘Top Teacher,’ she has had the same phenomenal influence on her own students. Parents commended Graves as exceedingly patient and kind, and marveled that she always keeps a smile on her face.

"Mrs. Graves is one of those teachers that students want to have, and one of those teachers that parents want their children to have," wrote one parent. "She goes above and beyond the expected curriculum to teach; she provides activities and ways of learning that get her students excited and wanting to participate to learn."

With Graves as teacher, said the parents, subjects are more interesting and enjoyable; even the routine act of taking attendance becomes a learning game. "Rather than her students merely saying 'here' [during roll call]," said one parent, "she teaches them phrases in foreign languages so they can creatively take attendance."

Graves also provides opportunities for her students to take initiative and leadership roles -- from assigning jobs on the classroom newspaper, guiding recycling efforts around the school, creating optional book clubs, getting the children out into nature, and promoting participation in science fairs and math leagues.

"She continuously partners with community leaders and businesses to bring the 'outside world' into school, and in doing so, helps teach her students that we live, work, and help not only our school, but our community as a whole," wrote a parent. "The highest praise I can give to Mrs. Graves is that my daughter is excited and eager to be in her class; she jumps at every opportunity to learn something new."

Graves contends that the same things that make teaching a challenge also make it immensely rewarding. "Each school year," she said, "it is a new challenge to get to know your students well enough so that you know who they are as individuals and exactly what their learning needs are, and then as their teacher being able to create lessons that suit their needs and challenge them to succeed.

"This is where teaching gets really fun for me," she added, describing efforts to make lessons genuine and hands-on so that students play an active role in their learning, acquire real-life experiences and can apply their knowledge in the future -- instead of simply recalling it.

"I enjoy seeing them 'show' me what they know through creating projects, portfolios, presentations, songs and so forth," Graves said, "rather than just 'telling' me what they know on a unit test." Seeing students smile as they put the finishing touches on a solar system model, or observing as they suddenly 'click' on how to convert metric units, gives Graves a thrill because she knows they have not only acquired knowledge, but also gained a greater sense of self-reliance and a deeper love for learning.

Graves also enjoys having former students drop by to say hello, especially students from the previous year who "go into detail about different lessons or projects that were their favorite and how much fun they had. That's always motivating!"

Playing an active role in shaping and molding the leaders of tomorrow is a privilege, not a job, says Graves. And while her fundamental goal might be to teach students everything they need to know for their grade level, her ultimate goal goes beyond that.

"My priority," Graves said, "is to spur and nurture in them a desire for lifelong learning."
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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The Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour will stop at Sam’s Club at 9440 W. Broad Street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Local barbecue enthusiasts are invited to join Pitmaster… Full text

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Henricopedia

Henrico's Top Teachers