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Henrico’s Top Teachers – Tyler Hart

Springfield Park E.S., third grade
As the son of a teacher who is now a teacher himself, Tyler Hart – it would be natural to assume – had to have been a school-lover and a model student growing up.

Just the opposite, says Hart.

“I was always the student with the ‘X’s in the ‘talkative’ box on my report card,” he recalls. “I was always out of my seat. I was not a fan of school.”

It wasn’t until Hart graduated from University of Richmond and began working at summer camps and an after-school program that teaching really entered his mind. Taking a job as a permanent substitute at Crestview Elementary, where he often floated to different classrooms helping out, he found himself drawn to special ed classrooms in particular and to the task of motivating and engaging children in general.

Before long, he returned to UR to get his teaching degree – and discovered a textbook by Ron Clark that affected him deeply.

“I had read numerous textbooks for college and graduate classes, but I think The Essential 55 was the first book I read that really let me know that I wanted to be a teacher,” says Hart. “I become enamored with [Clark’s] teaching style. I watched the movie, The Ron Clark Story and became even more motivated. This was a guy showing it’s okay to dance around, rap, and stand on desks.

“It really led me to believe that education can be fun.”

This year, Hart was able to fly to Atlanta and visit The Ron Clark Academy to see his idol teach in person -- an experience he says he will never forget, and hopes to experience again.

It’s clear, if you ask Hart’s students and their parents, that he has not only taken Ron Clark’s philosophy to heart, but has also added his own distinctive spirit and stamp.

He has “a very cool and friendly way of teaching,” said one parent. Under his guidance, many children who professed to hate school and who tested poorly on SOLs have not only improved or passed, but learned to love learning.

“Children are captivated by his style [and energy],” said another parent. “His assignments are thought-provoking and exciting [and] he provides just the right amount of scaffolding, allowing the learners to take off on their own when ready.”

In only the first nine weeks of school, one parent noticed a dramatic change in her child’s self-confidence and attitude towards learning, and credited the improvement to Hart’s unique, hands-on way of teaching and inventive lessons.

“[My child] is excited to learn new things and to see what creative ideas he has for the day,” she said, citing activities that range from making continents out of cookie dough to dropping eggs off the school roof.

Another parent wrote that Hart’s hands-on style helped her daughter to open up and to be less shy in public.

“He really gets the students involved in using the blog page,” said the parent, “[and teaches] students how to be responsible by setting up a manager and having them have use ‘fake money’ to pay for a job.”

Using technology in new and innovative ways in the classroom is one of Hart’s passions, he agrees. At the beginning of the school year, he invests a lot of time in step-by-step teaching of different programs; by the end of the year, he says he is “blown away” at seeing what the students develop.

“It is a blast using these resources to enhance my students’ learning,” he says. “One of my favorite things is when former students come to show off projects they have created in programs that they learned how to use with me.”

When he’s had opportunities to make presentations at professional conferences, Hart adds, he enjoys helping his fellow teachers just as much as students – and says they “get just as excited as an eight-year-old when they learn something new.”

The former classroom chatterbox says that he has taken the opposite approach from his own teachers in his third grade classroom.

“I know most of the time [as a student] I was probably not being productive with my ‘chatter,’” says Hart. “But I welcome chatter in my classroom – within reason. I thoroughly enjoy watching the interactions of my students.”

Hart also enjoys meeting the challenge of taking 25 different personalities from very different backgrounds, and helping each to find the best way to learn the material “and have an awesome time doing it,” he says.

Becoming a teacher has given him a new appreciation of his mother, Peggy Hart, who taught in Henrico County for 30 years. “I didn’t realize,” he says, “how much work she put into her class until I was on the other side of the desk.”

But no matter how daunting the challenges, Hart says, they are far outweighed by teaching’s rewards.

He enjoys, for instance, seeing his students’ reactions when he tells them they will have a substitute next day.

“To hear my students genuinely upset that I won’t be in class the next day,” says Hart, “always puts a smile on my face. I also find myself checking the clock when I am out, thinking, ‘Now they are doing math. Time for art! I hope ‘Billy’ is doing what he is supposed to be doing right now.’”

But the best part about teaching, he insists, is that it never gets stale.

“[Teaching] will never be the same year in and year out. Every year I have to mold and hone my craft based on the students I have,” Hart says.

“In the ever-changing world of education I live by one motto: ‘Embrace change, it’s the only constant.’”


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers