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.”
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
HandsOn Day 2015, which will feature 1200 volunteers serving more than 65 nonprofits in Greater Richmond, will take place Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the projects in Henrico or surrounding communities that need volunteers are: installing GardenFest lights Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, distribution center assistance at Feedmore, pumpkin carving with residents at SupportOne, work and play at Housing Families First, paint for independence at Heart Havens, spruce up the shelter and clean sweep at Harbor House at Safe Harbor, pinwheel project at REAP and Kidney Walk prep at National Kidney Foundation Serving VA. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips. The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The tool, which is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, is free and easy to use; searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.
Native plants are those that grow where they evolved; they have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions. The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from dropdown menus. > Read more.
Henrico County Recreation and Parks is hosting a concert by The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Henrico Theatre, 305 East Nine Mile Road in Highland Springs. This free concert will be held at 7 p.m. and will feature Soldier-Musicians from the U.S. Army Field Band.
Since its inception in 1981, The Volunteers has been telling the Army story through rock, pop, country, and patriotic music. Its members have performed for millions of listeners in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, and Iraq. This group tours more than 100 days each year, bringing a powerful message of patriotism and support to communities large and small. > Read more.
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