Top Teachers: Katie Schwieder
Fairfield M.S., sixth grade
On their 20th wedding anniversary, Katie Schwieder and her husband, Wylie, had an epiphany. She had spent her professional life as a banker and corporate trainer, he as a corporate executive. But with their four children finished or nearly finished with their public schooling, Schwieder said, “we decided it was time to give back.”
With that, they both quit their jobs to become teachers. Wylie Schwieder is in his third year teaching math at Henrico High School and Katie is in her second teaching English at Fairfield Middle School.
The transition wasn’t a difficult one for her.
“In a sense, I’ve been a teacher my whole life,” she said, recalling her days as a branch manager at a Wisconsin bank, then as a corporate trainer who assisted with team development, resolving conflict and customer service issues.
“Every day in the classroom, my customer is that child who’s in front of me, and his or her parents,” she said. “I always feel like I’m here to serve them. The product is education.”
Schwieder feels meant for sixth-graders – students caught in between the regimented schedule of elementary school and the flexibility of high school – as they work to define themselves in a sometimes chaotic blend of emotions.
“They’re independent but still children,” she said. “They’re trying to grow up but really not sure how. They’re concerned with having friends, but sometimes they just really need a hug.”
English is a natural fit for Schwieder, who grew up with a healthy appetite for reading and writing.
“I’m passionate about helping young people learn to communicate,” she said, “to express themselves both in writing and orally in a way that helps them be successful and engage with other people – especially in a world so technologically advanced now.”
To that end, Schwieder often builds her lessons around topics that the students themselves select.
One, for example, requires students to write about “My Most Unforgettable Day” – allowing them to recall their most prideful or special moments. Another asks them to address the topic “If I Could I Would” by writing about something they’d love to do.
Schwieder then encourages students to try the things they write about. Last summer, one student took piano lessons as a result. Another went to football camp. A third learned to make jewelry.
“Visiting her classroom, you feel the energy of inspiring lessons and students who want to be the best they can be for her,” one nominator wrote of Schwieder.
Schwieder’s in-class “book clubs” allow students to discuss books together, then create video commercials, skits or even re-write a book’s endings as a group.
By reading Three Cups of Tea – a book by Greg Mortenson about his efforts to establish schools for girls in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan – Fairfield sixth-graders have learned to relate to children their age half a world away.
“I’m trying to open up their minds to the world beyond the East End of Henrico,” she said. “I wrote in all my Christmas cards last year that I have found my calling. It’s been very rewarding.”
As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.
Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.
"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.
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Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.
It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).
Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.
Enjoy political comedy at its finest with The Capitol Steps at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Methodist and Baptist churches unite for the fourth annual Mission Footprint 5K, taking place at Trinity UMC. Or in honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, treat them to A Grand Family Affair or maybe a movie – the 1978 film “Superman” is at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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