Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Karla Ott

Rivers Edge E.S., fourth grade
Inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Karla Ott found it as a college student in the far reaches of Slovakia, working with children on a church mission with whom she had no way to communicate other than expression.

“We had absolutely no language connection with them,” she said. “It was simply about loving the children.”

Still in college at the time with aspirations of becoming a veterinarian, something clicked for Ott on the trip.

“I had never seen teaching and education as a field that I would be good in,” she said. “But I realized that it was not as much about teaching as much as developing connections with kids and loving them.”

Ott is now in her fourth year of teaching fourth-graders at Rivers Edge – a group she calls the perfect age for her.

“These kids, they haven’t developed the need to just get away from adults and away from having so much structure,” she said. “They still really crave the structure that elementary education gives them.

“And they still kind of think you’re pretty cool.”

Ott herself is a product of Henrico County Public Schools – a Tucker graduate who attended Shady Grove Elementary and Short Pump Middle and has lived in the River’s Edge zone nearly her entire life – since before the school itself ever existed.

She teaches a fitness class at the nearby Shady Grove YMCA before school in the mornings and for the past three years has also coached girls’ lacrosse at Deep Run High School in the afternoons. She’s given that up this year but has a new afterschool program that excites her just as much – a running club that she and two other teachers created.

“We were expecting 10 or 15 kids might be interested,” she said, “but our numbers are in the low 90s now. It has just exploded. The kids are so excited.”

The ‘River Runners’ club brings fitness experts and yoga instructors, among others, to educate second- through fifth-graders about different activities they can enjoy outdoors. Club members spend an hour each day running.

Ott credits her own love of running – which she developed after college at the behest of a friend – with changing her life by making her a more fit, confident person. (She’s since run several marathons and half-marathons.) She believed it could do something similar for her students, who will compete in the kids’ run at this year’s Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k.

“I just picture all of our kids in their River Runner shirts coming to the finish line,” Ott said, smiling at the thought.
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

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.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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The Short Pump Ruritan Club's 24th Annual Craft Show will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Short Pump Middle School, 4701 Pouncey Tract Rd., Glen Allen. More… Full text

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