Henrico County VA
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Top Teachers: Todd Ritter

Henrico H.S., drama
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.”
Community

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.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Henrico's Top Teachers