Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Philip Riddle

Brookland M.S., sixth grade
As a child, Philip Riddle noticed that many of the adults he knew spoke of work as if it were a burden.

At the same time, he noticed that many of his teachers relished their jobs – radiating joy in the way that they interacted with students, presented subject matter and provided extra help to those who needed it.

“I just could not imagine waking up every day to go to a job that I did not find joy in,” Riddle recalled. “I knew that if I was going to devote a career to something, it had to be something I was passionate about.

“And I learned very early on that it was easy to be passionate about teaching.”

Today, parents at Brookland Middle School have noticed that Riddle radiates that same joy with his sixth-graders. They cited his contagious, “extremely happy, pleasant-to-have-around” nature, the “can-do” spirit he encourages in his students and the fairness and integrity he models in the classroom.

One student was so taken by Riddle’s fresh, open style that he came home from his first day of school and announced his plans to become a history professor.

But parents add that career choices are not all that Riddle has inspired. He challenges students to become lifelong learners and to make a difference in the world through leadership and service to the community.

Knowing that most of his students will not go on to careers in social studies, Riddle works hard to present the curriculum in a way that engages every student – whether by having the students read together and pose questions, or by sharing stories and interactive sites that will intrigue them.

“A certain percentage of students just love social studies and would look forward to my class even if I just stood up and lectured every day,” Riddle acknowledged.

“But all students deserve a better experience than that. Lessons that are engaging challenge students to think critically . . . [and help them] draw connections between what has happened in the past and what is taking place in their world.”

As rewarding as classroom teaching may be, however, Riddle said that the most meaningful parts of his day are moments in which he can talk to students one on one. Not only, he said, do these times allow for individualized feedback and instruction, but they also give students a chance to talk about concerns outside of the classroom.

“Students need to know that your priority is them,” said Riddle. “And I cannot confine that concern only to what happens in the classroom.”

Unfortunately, busy school-day schedules make it difficult to provide enough valuable one-on-one time, and even the best, most passionate teachers can’t do it all themselves. A supportive community is crucial to a good school system, believes Riddle, who noted that citizens who volunteer their time and resources are always welcome.

After all, he said, “A world class education for all students provides benefits for everyone – not just the children who attend our schools.”
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

New Henrico biscuit shop thrives with grandmother’s recipe

Tix Laxton rises at 4:30 a.m. every day for a biscuit. But he’s not rushing out to any restaurant to get his favorite Southern comfort food; he’s baking his own from scratch and serving them up from his bakery on Lakeside Avenue.

Laxton opened Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery in early July and since then biscuits have been flying out of there.

The self-taught baker draws hungry crowds in with a biscuit of the day like the Old Bay Cheddar, but the buttermilk biscuits are the staple.

“On a Saturday I generally make about 400 biscuits with my two hands,” Laxton said. “I’m constantly making biscuits all day long.” > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

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