Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Ryan Stein

Pinchbeck E.S., fourth grade
There’s been a revolution at Pinchbeck Elementary. Take a moment and let the fourth-grade parents tell you about it:

“My daughter always complained about going to school until this year,” said one. “Now she can’t wait to go and she is so excited about what she is learning.”

“My child was starting to dread school,” said another, “because the rigor of the SOLs was creating pressure to squeeze so much material into the school day. Mr. [Ryan] Stein has creatively managed to marry fun with learning.”

“[Our child] was struggling, had low self esteem due to low grades, and had little on-on-one attention and guidance from his prior school,” said a third parent. This year he . . . never wants to miss school.”

Even students who were “okay with school” in the BMS [Before Mr. Stein] era have been transformed – into wildly enthusiastic.

“My daughter comes home each day talking about all the things she is doing in class,” said a parent. “She is eager to do homework [or] sing a song about [what she is learning].”

“In a few short weeks,” added another, “Mr. Stein has turned my son around from being a reluctant reader to being an enthusiastic one. My son’s grades have gone up and he can’t wait to get to school.

“I have never seen my child so happy and eager to learn,” wrote one enthused parent. “Mr. Stein is the teacher every parent dreams of having for their child.”

In Ryan Stein’s class, say parents, there is no such thing as rote memorization.

Instead of lecturing about the trials and tribulations of Jamestown, he has students dress up and hold a mock trial, playing the roles of judges and lawyers. He also brings in “mystery readers” from the community and writes songs for the students that teach Virginia history. The students then dress as characters from that period and sing the lyrics to create a “dance video.”

“He is the textbook case for the way teachers should be teaching to prepare their students for the 21st century,” wrote a parent. “In the first nine weeks of school, my son has already composed a PowerPoint book report and a video book, been a lawyer in a mock trial, acted in a rap video and filmed a Claymation animation video. That is some pretty techno-savvy work for fourth graders.

“Mr. Stein truly brings learning to life.”

Outside of class, Stein (pictured with his class on ‘70s day) attends students’ extracurricular activities and conducts voluntary reading groups, allowing students who have read the book to eat lunch with him and discuss it. He also invites students to stay after school and watch movies based on books the class has read. If a student is upset about something, he eats lunch with the child and shares his own growing-up experiences. During recess, when the boys in his class like to play football, he refuses to segregate the class and supervise the girls in a separate activity. Instead, he plays quarterback for the girls’ team and leads them in games with the boys.

An advocate of year-round schools, Stein has created blogs and other tools as a way of extending learning outside the school day. Because instructional time is so limited, he said, it is imperative for students to have a tool that they will “embrace, enjoy using and learn from at home daily, including the weekends.”

Stein, who has provided hundreds of workshops for college students and teachers on integrating 21st-century technology into teaching, said he developed his teaching philosophy by “stealing bits and pieces” from outstanding teachers and administrators he has known.

“But hands down,” he said, “the greatest influence on me [as a teacher] has been my mother. Her passion, determination, work ethic, and enthusiasm for making a difference in the world are highlighted every single day in my classroom. She made me realize that life is about whom we are and what we give rather than what we have.”

This past January, he experienced his most rewarding moment as a teacher when the 100th Virginia school chose to implement History MVP, the educational songs and computer software program he developed for daily instruction.

“My dream of implementing my innovative teaching tools and philosophy by using music and dance to engage, educate, and inspire children in school all throughout Virginia has finally come true,” said Stein.

“I have found my profession to be extremely rewarding, and I am grateful to all my students for enriching my life.” 


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > 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.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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