Henrico County VA
Education

HCPS preschool program to expand in fall

Henrico County Public Schools will expand its preschool program for 4-year-olds next fall, thanks to new funding from the federal Preschool Expansion Grant.

The school system is one of 11 high-needs systems in Virginia that will share a total of $17.5 million in federal money, which will be dispersed in Virginia through the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). Virginia was one of 18 states to receive a portion of $226 million in federal preschool grant dollars.

Henrico currently serves 774 preschool students in 43 classrooms at 22 elementary schools and the New Bridge Learning Center. The new funds will allow HCPS to add 10 preschool classes and serve 180 additional students, according to HCPS Director of Foundational Learning and Family Engagement Gail Jones.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Charles Futrell

Several students wrote to nominate Charles Futrell as a top teacher, citing his skill at developing fun study guides that motivate students to learn and his ability to make classwork relevant to his students' interests.

"He always finds cool ways to help us remember American history," wrote one student.

"He made learning easy for me and a lot of my classmates," said a student who had him for civics – adding that Futrell is "super funny."

"He makes school fun," said another student, "but still teaches kids at the same time. He teaches kids [in] ways other teachers don't, by connecting stuff to stuff kids like."

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Emily Stains

Emily Stains' favorite day of elementary school was Take Your Daughter to Work Day. That was when she got to accompany her mother to school, sit quietly in the back of the classroom, and watch her mom teach.

"I was absolutely in awe of her presence, compassion, and rigor in her classroom," Stains recalled, adding that at home, her mother was always surrounded by books and papers, preparing lessons she taught as an adjunct professor for Penn State.

A high school English teacher, Mr. Oswalt, also influenced Stains. In college, a special professor allowed her to take leadership roles and helped her raise funds to attend national conferences for aspiring English teachers. Today, widely praised and respected as a teacher who "goes the extra mile for her students," Stains clearly has taken her early mentors' lessons to heart.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Brian DelCorso

Brian DelCorso's love of basketball helped lead him to two other great loves in his life – teaching and his students.

DelCorso served as a manager for the VCU basketball team while in college and parlayed some connections into an assistant coaching position with a Dutch professional team after grad school. The experience abroad didn't pay much but gave him an opportunity to live a dream and experience a new world.

As part of the job, he regularly assisted with basketball clinics in local schools to get children interested in the sport. Many of the students were fascinated by America and peppered him with questions. His own future began to crystallize.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Theresa Kilmer

During any given school period, Theresa Kilmer might be teaching 18 or 19 different classes at the same time. It might be a bit much for others to track, but Kilmer seems to thrive on the constant activity.

Kilmer is J.R. Tucker High School's e2020 instructor, overseeing an online program that is designed to help students recover lost credits and get back on track to graduate on time.

Students arrive in her classroom just as they would for any other class, but once there, they each begin viewing different online lectures or taking quizzes or tests, based upon their individual needs and grade levels. The program has helped dozens of Tucker students pass courses they had previously failed – but not without a lot of hard work.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Anne-Marie Slinkman

The art bug bit Anne-Marie Slinkman early in life, but she didn't consider herself an artist until she reached high school. By the time she entered VCU as an aspiring designer, she had found satisfaction in her ability to express her thoughts in a unique way.

But ultimately, that satisfaction with her own artistic path wasn't lasting. So she turned to teaching as a way to help others discover the wonders of art.

Now in her seventh year as the art teacher at Greenwood Elementary School (following two in Chesterfield County and four at Highland Springs Elementary), Slinkman has found her personal happy zone.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Marc Seccia

Marc Seccia credits his wife, Ginny, for inspiring him to become a teacher. A first-grade teacher at Crestview Elementary School, Ginny has taught for almost 20 years.

"Any award or recognition I receive should be partly shared by her," Seccia said. "She helped me develop a path toward reaching my degree after I stopped working in communications."

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Louise Robertson

By now, Louise Robertson is used to the puzzled looks and quizzical responses some people give her upon learning her profession.

"I've had people say, 'You teach middle school? God bless you. How do you do it?'" she said with a laugh.

But for Robertson, now in her 21st year at the Steward School and fourth year as academic dean for the middle school, it's a worthwhile challenge. As a seventh-grade English teacher, she strives to impart traditional standards and philosophies to students who have grown up in a technology-frenzied world. And though technology is a big part of her classroom, she finds that students sometimes gravitate toward old-fashioned favorites.

Henrico’s Top Teachers – Julie Richardson

Julie Richardson has a way with her students, said a colleague who nominated her, that draws them to her and makes them want to keep in touch well after they have graduated.

A teacher of social studies at both the honors and AP levels, she is known as one of the best teachers at Godwin – respected by both students and faculty.

"She holds the students to a very high standard," said her colleague. "She challenges them and they come away better writers, thinkers and people.

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