Henrico County VA
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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.”
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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