Henrico County VA

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

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

CAT Theatre to host auditions

CAT Theatre will hold auditions for Book of Days on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. each day. Auditions will be held at CAT Theatre, 319 North Wilkinson Road in Henrico. Book of Days will run Jan. 23-Feb. 7 and is one of CAT’s submissions to the Acts of Faith Festival.

Book of Days, by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson is an exploration of faith, justice, and corruption, amidst the backdrop of murder – and community theatre – in small town America. Book of Days was first written for and produced by Jeff Daniels Purple Rose Theatre Company of Michigan.

Director Leslie Cline is seeking five females between the ages of 20-65 and seven males between the ages of 24-65. > Read more.

CAT Theatre opens 51st season Oct. 24


CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. The play is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Steven Dietz, and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The story follows Holmes, whose career as the world’s greatest detective seems to have reached its end until he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer, Irene Adler, Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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Henricopedia

Henrico's Top Teachers