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Top Teachers: Janet Givens

Echo Lake E.S., first grade
Officially, Janet Givens teaches first grade at Echo Lake Elementary School. Unofficially, she teaches creativity.

Givens’ classroom is a wonderland of ingenuity, a place where students learn the same lessons in a multitude of different ways. Students often lead their peers in lessons on her classroom Promethean board or create scrapbooks from field trip experiences. Mind-bender games challenge their knowledge.

During a popular lesson about the solar system, Givens takes her students outside to draw a 15-foot sun in chalk on the pavement, then uses a golf ball to represent the size of Earth.

“The visual perception of the concept will forever be embedded in my son’s head,” wrote one woman who nominated Givens.

Givens – who gave up a career in interior design and retail merchandising to become a teacher 15 years ago – traces the roots of her own creativity to her great aunt, an art teacher who instilled much of it in her at a young age.

“I like thinking of news ways to do things, or unusual ways – ways the kids relate to,” she said. “I just really try to be me in my classroom, and part of me is, a lot of times, doing things a little bit differently.”

Givens earned National Board Certified Teacher status in 2004 – an involved process that requires teachers to develop an extensive portfolio and complete several assessment exercises. She has taught first grade at Echo Lake since the school opened in 1999. She works to develop a personal connection with each student, believing that in turn they’ll open up to her and be more eager to learn.

“I like to try to find that one little special thing that makes a child unique or challenging or special,” she said.

Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed among parents.

“She recognizes the wide ability range of children in her class and manages to incorporate the advanced essentials of curriculum yet still meet the needs of those requiring a ‘second helping,’ one nominator wrote.

Givens is a regular participant in recess – “I’m usually the pitcher for kickball,” she admitted – and considers one of her most meaningful teaching moments to be one that came outside the classroom. A student had earned the reward of running a mile with her after school, but he had difficulty convincing himself he could finish.

“That whole time I kept telling him, ‘One foot in front of the other, you can do this – we’re not going to stop, you can do this’ – and he did,” he recalled. “It was the best mile I ever ran with him. It’s something that I carry with me.”
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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