Henrico’s Top Teachers – Rebekah Goemaat

If Rebekah Goemaat seems to bring the perspective of a social worker inside her classroom at Quioccasin Middle School, there's a good reason for it.

She once was one.

She also was a foster parent and Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, so you might say she had a particular affinity for working with children. So it wasn't shocking, then, when after moving to the Richmond area, she began contemplating a career as a teacher – specifically in the realm of exceptional education.

After transitioning to the field, she's been a public school teacher for the past decade, the last six years in Henrico (all at Quioccasin, formerly Byrd Middle).

There, she teaches English and math to students with intellectual, physical and health disabilities and loves everything about it.

"It's the students," she said, describing what makes the job so rewarding. "They're an amazing group of people of individuals, because middle school isn't easy for anyone. They take their challenges and do amazing things with those challenges in environments that are sometimes inviting and sometimes are not.

"We work – and these students work – every day to kind of earn their inclusion."

Goemaat strives to build connections with each of her students by finding their passions and learning what is most important to them.

"Someone told me once that kids want to be enjoyed," she said. "When students find a teacher who enjoys who they are – that may mean laughing at their jokes. . . or showing an interest in their hobbies and things that they're good at – . . . then it builds a connection."

Recently, Goemaat took that mindset to new heights when she organized a unified basketball league for intellectually disabled students at Quioccasin and three other Henrico middle schools – the first such middle school league in the state. The league, modeled on a Special Olympics program and implemented with that organization's support, pairs disabled and able-bodied students together on teams that compete on the court.

"The idea is that everybody learns and plays and plays to the best of their abilities," Goemaat said. "One of the really cool things that I like about their model was that they focused not only on the game but on having it be competitive."

That prevents the type of unintentionally patronizing situations that occur when teams attempt to involved disabled athletes for a play or two but simply let them score, Goemaat said.

The league was a tremendous success, with some disabled players becoming stars on the court and able-bodied players enjoying the chance to compete as well, she said. "It was fantastic," one parent wrote in a nomination letter. "That's leadership, caring, compassion, understanding – developing the children outside of the classroom – all in one.

Said Goemaat: "These are moments that students without disabilities take for granted. Having these [disabled] students just being able to experience just normal middle school moments, that's kind of the most heartwarming for me."

The plan is for eight Henrico middle schools to field teams next school year. Goemaat praised the principals and staff members at each participating school for figuring out how to implement the league and its games into regular school days.
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Crime Stoppers’ Crime of the Week: Sept. 18, 2017

Crime Stoppers is seeking information about a shooting in Richmond that resulted in an injured child and the murder of an adult.

At approximately 10:21 p.m., Sept. 9, Richmond Police were called to the 3200 block of 5th Avenue for a report of a person shot. They quickly located two victims suffering from gunshot wounds, a 57-year-old male and a 9-year-old female. > Read more.

Business in brief

Commonwealth Senior Living at the West End, located at 2400 Gaskins Rd., will hold their grand opening on Oct. 3 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The community recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation which included the addition of a new memory care neighborhood, new resident suites, an expanded dining room, and brand-new courtyards and additional outdoor spaces. Commonwealth Senior Living associates will be on site to provide tours of the newly renovated community. > Read more.

Wegmans to sponsor Turkey Trot 10K

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. will become title sponsor of the Richmond Road Runners Club’s annual Turkey Trot 10K, a Thanksgiving Day tradition for many Richmond area runners.

Wegmans and RRRC have signed a three-year agreement whereby the race, beginning in November 2017, will be known as the Wegmans Turkey Trot 10K. RRRC will continue to manage race operations. > Read more.

Publix to open at Virginia Center Marketplace Oct. 11

Publix will open its next Henrico location at 10150 Brook Road in the Virginia Center Marketplace shopping center in Glen Allen Oct. 11 at 7 a.m. The store will host a grand opening ceremony at that time.

The location will be the Florida chain's fifth in Henrico, joining those already open at Nuckols Place and The Shoppes at Crossridge in Glen Allen, The Shops at White Oak Village in Eastern Henrico and John Rolfe Commons in the Far West End. > Read more.

Statewide tax amnesty period underway

Delinquent individual and business taxpayers in Virginia can pay back taxes with no penalties and half the interest from now through Nov. 14, as part of the 2017 Virginia Tax Amnesty Program, which began Sept. 13.

Approved by the 2017 General Assembly, the program assumes collection of $89.5 million for the general fund to support education, health, and public safety, as well as to provide a cash reserve. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

September 2017

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will present the last “Flowers After 5” event of 2017. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy live music from the Adrian Duke Project, as well as family activities, wine and beer, dining and shopping. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome. The Garden partners with the Richmond SPCA on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month for Fidos After 5 where leashed pets are allowed. Admission is $8 to $13 or free for members. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers

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