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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The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

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The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

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Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

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Henrico Business Bulletin Board

May 2017
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The Center for the Arts at Henrico High School will present its 2017 Visual Art Senior Show at Art Works, 320 Hull Street in Richmond, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free.

The show is the culmination of the efforts of senior students of Mary Scurlock. The exhibit will appear in the Jane Sandelin Gallery through June 6.

For details, visit http://blogs.henrico.k12.va.us/cfa/. Full text

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