Top Teachers: Matt Togna

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.”
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District will present the basic practices to reduce soil erosion and the value of soil testing at Varina Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Registration is required. For details, call 501-1980 or visit http://www.henricolibrary.org. Full text

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