Henrico County VA

Top Teachers: Matt Togna

Tucker H.S., 10th-12th grades
All teachers have their share of embarrassing moments, and Matt Togna is not shy about sharing a memorable one of his – which occurred during his first months of teaching.

One lab day, while preparing for his class to use their Bunsen burners, Togna turned on the main valve for the gas line while in another classroom eating lunch. Unbeknownst to him, a student fiddling with the gas valve had left it open – which led to a classroom full of gas and the need to move to another teacher’s room while his was vented.

“[The teacher] made me wear a sort of ‘dunce’ cap,” Togna said, “while I taught my class in her room. She’s been at Tucker for a long time, so she could do that to the new guy. Thanks, Ms. Selden!” 

The last thing his students would label Togna, however, is a dunce. One student called him “one of the smartest, and brightest minds that I know of in Henrico County” and adds that classmates agree Togna is “the best teacher we have had in all of our years K-12.”

His students say that Togna makes difficult courses such as AP and college prep chemistry interesting and easier to understand. Students know they can drop by his classroom any time to get help, and they are inspired by his energy, work ethic, and passion for his job.

“He puts forth 120 percent effort into making classroom time fun, enjoyable, and informative,” wrote one student. “For heaven’s sake, the man arrives at school at 7 a.m. every single day [and] doesn’t leave until 6 p.m. – more than two hours after school ends!”

Togna finds rewards in those long hours, however, whenever he sees a student truly grasp the meaning of an academic challenge. He mentioned a recent incident in which a student critiqued her own lab data and demonstrated that she wanted to understand her mistakes and improve her lab process. “She doesn’t want the right answer simply to get an ‘A,’” said Togna. “She wants to get better!”

In the same vein, he said, “Of course it’s great when a kid finally ‘gets it.’  It’s even more rewarding when they want to know why it’s the right answer.”

Motivating students can be tough, he admits, when difficult tasks such as working through math problems and balancing chemical equations are involved. “It’s so easy to throw in the towel when it gets hard.”

What’s more, he said, a teacher has to remind students constantly of the big picture. “Kids often ask the question, ‘When am I going to ever need this stuff?’

“Well,” Togna responds, “many of you won’t, and that’s okay. Again, it’s about the process of learning and working through something challenging.” 

Above all, said Togna, he has one hope for his students. “It’s that when they wake up in 20 years they enjoy getting out of bed and going to work. That’s how I feel [about teaching]. I want them to have that same enthusiasm for whatever it is that they do.”
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

Brews and bites done right

Urban Tavern’s big, bold themes impress

The Urban Tavern opened in August, replacing the former Shackelford’s space at 10498 Ridgefield Parkway in Short Pump. Because of local and longtime devotion to Shackleford’s, Urban Tavern has some big shoes to fill.

Without any background information, I headed to the restaurant for dinner on a Wednesday night, two months after its opening.

On a perfect fall evening, four out of eight outdoor tables were taken, giving the impression that the restaurant was busier than it was. On the inside, a couple tables were taken, and a few folks were seated at the bar. > Read more.

A terrible, horrible movie. . . that’s actually pretty good

‘Alexander’ provides uncomplicated family fun
It’s not surprising in the least that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t much resemble the book it’s based upon.

Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book isn’t exactly overflowing with movie-worthy material. Boy has bad day. Boy is informed that everyone has bad days sometimes. Then, the back cover.

In the film, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-ness is blown up to more extreme size. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) has a bum day every day, while the rest of his family (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey) exist in a constant bubble of perfection and cheery optimism – to the point that the family is so wrapped up in their own success that Alexander’s being ignored.

So on the eve of his 12th birthday, Alexander makes a wish: just once, he’d like his family to see things from his perspective; to experience the crushing disappointment of one of those no good, very bad days. Once he has blown out the candle on his pre-birthday ice cream sundae, his family’s fate is sealed: one full day of crippling disasters for all of them. > Read more.

Deep Run HS plans fall musical

Tickets for Deep Run High School’s fall musical production – Aida – will go on sale Nov. 3. The Elton John-Tim Rice pop opera, inspired by Verdi’s classic opera, tells the story of enslaved Nubian princess Aida, who falls for captain of the guard Radames, who is betrothed to the Egyptian princess.

Performances will be held Nov. 13-15 at 7 p.m. each day. > Read more.

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., will host “Making Beauty Sustainable: The Charles F. Gillette Forum” from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 23 and from 9 a.m. to… Full text

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