Top Teachers: Stephen Worfolk

Stephen Worfolk happened upon his career calling on a basketball court, while coaching a team at St. Mary’s Church.

“Even though we lost a lot of games my first year, I truly enjoyed teaching the kids how to play,” he said. “It was then I realized I would like to try my hand at teaching.”

Although he now “coaches” a classroom full of third-graders at Jackson Davis E.S., the challenges are similar in some respects.

“A large group of students come to you each year on different levels academically, emotionally and physically,” he said.  “Trying to meet each student’s needs and creating a classroom environment where each can grow can be very challenging.”

Sometimes the students, like his basketball players, need physical help and encouragement. In September, for instance, when training begins for the mile or half-mile running test in P.E., many can barely run a lap around the track. But Worfolk makes sure that the students exercise each day and run a mile at least three times a week.

Worfolk notes that one of his favorite days of the school year is the spring running test, when students who ran with difficulty in September find they can now go the distance without stopping. “It’s incredibly rewarding,” said Worfolk. “It is so neat to see students get excited about conquering a challenge they might have hated in the beginning of the year.”

A parent who observed this transformation comments, “Some kids never have – and may never again have – the opportunity or the encouragement that he provides. The physical progress for many of the kids is very inspirational.”

Parents also admire Worfolk’s “relentless” energy and concern for his students, and note that while strict, “he has a huge heart.”

To his students’ delight, he makes a point of attending their extracurricular activities and sports throughout the year. And to the delight of parents, he compiles an end-of-year show featuring photos from extracurricular events as well as from in-school activities.

Worfolk’s interest in the children as individuals, say parents, has a tremendous effect on students’ motivation and enthusiasm when it comes to school.

When it comes to enthusiasm for his students and for his colleagues, it’s hard to match Worfolk, as well.

One of his more rewarding teaching experiences involved a student who came into his class reading far below grade level.

Worfolk said the student was “incredibly hard-working,” but required help from many teachers beside himself due to being so far behind.

“I was proud to be a part,” he said, “of this amazing group of teachers . . . who helped this student with her reading to the point where she could read proudly to the rest of the class.” 
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Richmond-based rock and roll cover band Loose Gravel will perform from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at The Lilly Pad Café, 9680 Osborne Tnpk. in Varina. For details, call 507-1997. Full text

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