Henrico County VA

Top Teachers: Jill Morris

Pemeberton E.S., first grade
On her first day as a teacher, Jill Morris stood outside her classroom door, greeting children with a wide smile as they came down the hallway. One little girl stopped, looked up at Morris, then looked down. . . and threw up on Morris’ shoes.

It was an inauspicious start, to be sure, but it didn’t faze the young teacher.

“The nurturing side of me kicked in quickly, and I picked her up and didn’t really care about the mess on my feet,” she recalled.

The years since that day in Fairfax County have been smoother sailing, and Morris has distinguished herself as a caring, thoughtful teacher during her seven years at Henrico’s Pemberton Elementary, where she teaches first grade.

“No matter who I have in my classroom, I want them to feel loved and valued and know that there is someone in their corner,” she said. “No matter who walks through my door, I’m their champion.”

First-graders bring Morris much joy because of their wide-eyed love of school and of learning. Her students are excited about using computers, taking pictures and recording their voices for presentations.

“When a group of students smile, that means a lot,” Morris said.

Parents, including one who nominated Morris, have noticed her efforts.

“She goes out of her way to check on her past students to make sure they are still on the path to success,” one nominator wrote. “Jill volunteers her time to help with the school plays and musicals. This takes a huge amount of her personal time, but she is there to support the children and make them the best they can be.”

Morris has been in charge of the backstage crew for the school’s musical, which are produced every other year.

“You get an opportunity to see a student shine when maybe they wouldn’t in the classroom,” she said.

She experienced that firsthand several years ago when she convinced one student to participate in that year’s musical, even though he wasn’t sure he was talented enough. His enthusiasm for the role was evident throughout, though, and his mother told Morris how thankful she was for the teacher’s encouragement.

“He stood there beaming as his mother told me that,” Morris recalled. “He was so proud.”

A few weeks later, the boy’s mother died. He moved out of state to live with his aunt, who wrote Morris a letter explaining how much the experience – and the lasting memory of his mother’s pride – meant to the boy. The next year, the boy came back to visit and gave Morris a big hug.

“Those are the touching moments that you will never forget as a teacher,” she said.
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

Weekend Top 10


It’s Halloween! Ghosts and goblins are everywhere…especially at Dorey Park’s Monster Mash and the annual Pumpkin Festival at Gayton Crossing Shopping Center. But don’t let the fun stop on the 31st – the Latin Ballet of Virginia will present El Dia de los Muertos Family Festival on Nov. 1. And if you need a break from the candy, enjoy some classical music at the University of Richmond and the Weinstein JCC on Sunday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Brews and bites done right

Urban Tavern’s big, bold themes impress

The Urban Tavern opened in August, replacing the former Shackelford’s space at 10498 Ridgefield Parkway in Short Pump. Because of local and longtime devotion to Shackleford’s, Urban Tavern has some big shoes to fill.

Without any background information, I headed to the restaurant for dinner on a Wednesday night, two months after its opening.

On a perfect fall evening, four out of eight outdoor tables were taken, giving the impression that the restaurant was busier than it was. On the inside, a couple tables were taken, and a few folks were seated at the bar. > Read more.

A terrible, horrible movie. . . that’s actually pretty good

‘Alexander’ provides uncomplicated family fun
It’s not surprising in the least that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t much resemble the book it’s based upon.

Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book isn’t exactly overflowing with movie-worthy material. Boy has bad day. Boy is informed that everyone has bad days sometimes. Then, the back cover.

In the film, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-ness is blown up to more extreme size. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) has a bum day every day, while the rest of his family (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey) exist in a constant bubble of perfection and cheery optimism – to the point that the family is so wrapped up in their own success that Alexander’s being ignored.

So on the eve of his 12th birthday, Alexander makes a wish: just once, he’d like his family to see things from his perspective; to experience the crushing disappointment of one of those no good, very bad days. Once he has blown out the candle on his pre-birthday ice cream sundae, his family’s fate is sealed: one full day of crippling disasters for all of them. > Read more.

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The 17th annual Benefit Dinner for the Comboni Missionary Sisters will be held at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, 1700 Lakeside Ave. The Comboni Missionary Sisters are… Full text

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