Top Teachers: Todd Ritter

It was a circuitous path that led Todd Ritter to his job teaching drama and technical theatre at Henrico High.

But after 11 years, he still views it as “the best job in the world.”

Prior to teaching, during his 15 years in professional theatre, he noticed that student volunteers or interns were often the hardest workers at the theaters where he spent time. “Their wide-eyed appreciation for theatre was always so refreshing,” he recalled.

When he moved to Richmond, Ritter was asked to be the guest artist at the Center for the Arts and immensely enjoyed working with the students there. After two years, the previous teacher moved on, and suggested Ritter apply for the job. 

Today, he sees artistic endeavor and study as the glue that holds education together.

“Without art education, we lose perspective. Art can be the spark in a child that brings them back to their desks the next day.” 

In many respects, said Ritter, his job entails helping parents and students understand that “art does not occur in a vacuum,” and that playwrights, artist, dancers and songwriters are influenced by the world and events around them.

“We as artists cannot help but let the outside world mold what we do as artists,” he said.  “Therefore, it is essential to study history and other art forms in order to gain perspective.”

One of his favorite teaching memories, in fact, involved a sophomore who came running into his class many years ago.

“Mr. Ritter!” the student said. “We were talking about the Greeks in history today, and I completely understood what the teacher was talking about because of your lectures last year!”

Another thing he enjoys about the job is working with “my fellow teachers – some of the most dedicated and passionate teachers that I have ever met.” Among the role models who have inspired him in college and beyond, he said, is the center’s past director, Lee Hanchey.

“If I can do half the things that she accomplished as a teacher, I know I will be a success,” he said.  

Parents, he said, have also made his job much easier; some are so “fiercely loyal” that they continue to support and help him years after their child has graduated.

On the other hand, there are many parents he has never met, or has only met at graduation – even though in many cases he has worked with their child for four years.

He can’t help wishing that more parents understood how crucial it is to be involved all the way through high school.

“As a father of two very young children,” he said, “I already understand where they are coming from.  By the time your child reaches high school you have served on enough committees, bought enough wrapping paper and baked enough cookies for two lifetimes. 

“But as a high school teacher I wish they could hold on for just a few more years.”

High school students may be young adults, but they still need guidance and encouragement – as evidenced by the senior whose mind he changed about college.

“[The student] felt that they didn’t stand a chance of getting in, but after much persuasion, they tried and got accepted. 

“Whenever I think back to that moment,” said Ritter, “I know that I made a difference, and I use that feeling to drive me when I get really stressed at work.”
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New conservation easement creates wooded buffer for Bryan Park

Five years ago, members of the Friends of Bryan Park were facing the apparently inevitable development of the Shirley subdivision in Henrico, adjacent to the forested section of the park near the Nature Center and Environmental Education Area.

As part of the Shirley subdivision, the land had been divided into 14 lots in 1924, but had remained mostly undisturbed through the decades. In 2012, however, developers proposed building 40 modular houses on roughly 6.5 acres, clear-cutting the forest there and creating a highly dense neighborhood tucked into a dead end. > Read more.

Meet the men running for governor


Virginia will elect a new governor this year.

The governor’s position is one of great power and influence, as the current officeholder, Terry McAuliffe, has demonstrated by breaking the record for most vetoes in Virginia history.

However, during the last gubernatorial race in 2014, the voter turnout was less than 42 percent, compared with 72 percent during last year’s presidential election. > Read more.

RISC to address reading, childhood trauma, job training at assembly

On May 1, more than 1,700 community members representing Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities will gather at St. Paul’s Baptist Church (4247 Creighton Road) at 7 p.m. to address elementary reading, childhood trauma and job training in the greater Richmond region. Community members will speak about each issue and proposed solution.

For three years, the organization has sought implementation of a specific literacy program in Henrico County that it believes would help children who struggle with reading. > Read more.

Henrico to begin update of zoning, subdivision ordinances April 26


Henrico County is beginning a comprehensive update of its zoning and subdivision ordinances — the first such effort in six decades — and will introduce the project as part of the April 26 meeting of the Henrico County Planning Commission.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Room of the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. The ordinance update project will be featured as the final item on the agenda. Project consultant Clarion Associates will give a presentation, and meeting participants will be able to ask questions and provide comments. > Read more.

HCPS to present three-day ARTS Festival, beginning April 21


Henrico County Public Schools’ annual spring arts festival will celebrate its fourth year with a weekend of music and fine art. ARTS Festival events – the acronym stands for Artists, Residents, Teachers and Students – will kick off with a musical performance Friday night, April 21 and events will run through Sunday, April 23. This year’s festival will be held at Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Avenue.

Friday night at 7:30 p.m. the Center for the Arts at Henrico High School will hold the first of two weekend performances of its Musical Theatre Showcase, a selection of musical numbers performed by Center for the Arts students. > 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

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Eastern Henrico Ruritan Club will host a Spaghetti Luncheon from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 3812 Nine Mile Rd. behind Dabbs House Museum. Enjoy all-you-can-eat spaghetti, salad, bread, drinks and homemade desserts. Adults are $8 and children under 12 are $4. Full text

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