Henrico County VA
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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

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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Calendar

Commonwealth Parenting will present “Establishing Rules, Boundaries and Consequences for Children 11-16 Years” from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Children’s Museum of Richmond-Short Pump, 2200 Old Brick Rd.… Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers