School & sports news for Sept. 4

The AD’s report

Fall sports have officially begun and Rapp athletes have a few wins under their belts and are looking for more this week and next.

Varsity cross country teams were the first out of the gate last week, hosting a Rapp River Conference Invitational last Wednesday (Aug. 27). On the boys’ side, Gavin Jenkins finished second overall, and with backing from Jordan Rector (seventh overall), Connor Culbertson and Trey Jenkins, led the team to a second-place finish. In the girls’ race, Rapp put forth an incredible team effort on a day when their defending state champ was out with illness. The girls took first place behind senior Emily Allen’s first-place finish and a strong showing by the rest of the varsity team.

Our varsity and Junior Panther harriers were to take the course again yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 3), hosting multiple schools in an event too late for this report. Our J.P. squads will return to the Blue Rock course next Tuesday (Sept. 9) at 4:30 p.m.

J.V. and varsity volleyball had their first full week last week, with J.V. taking two Bull Run District wins and varsity settling for a one-and-one split. Both teams traveled to George Mason last Tuesday, where they took straight set victories. On Thursday (Aug. 31) at home, things seemed to be heading in the same direction, with J.V. taking a straight-set win and varsity winning its first two in a best of five. But the Eagles proved to have some fight left in them, as they battled to a third game win, dominated the fourth, and then held on to win the fifth in extra points and take the match.

Both volleyball teams took the road this past Tuesday, traveling to Manassas Park, but are home tonight (Sept. 4), hosting the Mountaineers of Madison County. And they’ll be home next Tuesday (Strasburg, Sept. 9) and Wednesday (Sept. 10) — Wednesday being our annual in-county rivalry games with Wakefield Country Day! So be sure to come out and support what promises to be a high-flying season. J.V. tips off at 6 p.m., with varsity beginning 20 minutes after the end of J.V.

Varsity football had high hopes after a strong scrimmage performance in Maryland two weeks ago but just couldn’t put together enough consistency last Friday against the Celtics of Roanoke Catholic, falling by a final score of 34-0. There were some highlights — Austin Huff snagged an interception, Ben Montgomery and Jackson Strickler had some nice gains running and receiving, and the defense made a heroic goal line stand — but coaches (and players) were disappointed with the final result.

All are working hard this week to improve on that score when they host the Mustangs of George Mason tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 5) at 7 — and our award-winning Panther Marching Band will be making their season debut as well. Come on out to Panther Stadium for our hometown version of Friday Night Lights.

Junior Panther football takes to the road this week for their first regular season game. The team travels to Frederick, Md., today (Thursday, Sept. 4) to face the Maryland School for the Deaf. Coach Dave Whorton and his staff are hopeful that many of the positive things they saw in last week’s scrimmage will translate into success on the field.

Our Junior Panther boys soccer and girls volleyball teams saw their season openers delayed as visitors Shenandoah Valley Christian had to postpone last Tuesday’s games. J.P. volleyball goes on the road to King George today and the soccer team travels to Fresta tomorrow. The home opener for soccer is now 4:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 8), when they host Wakefield. Volleyball’s home gym debut is now next Wednesday (Sept. 10), when they host Wakefield at 4:30, part of an in-county volleyball tripleheader between the Owls and the homestanding Panthers.

As always, the Rapp Athletic Department cordially invites you and your family to one of our upcoming events. A $5 (at most) admission and a competitive contest make for a great evening’s entertainment and our concessions stand — sponsored by our boosters — is your answer for dinner! And remember, all the latest Rapp Athletic schedules and scores can be found at

Go Rapp!

— Jimmy Swindler

Panther Pride: Reading update

Rappahannock County Elementary School has wasted no time this year, as teachers and staff began focusing on reading strategies that engage reluctant readers from day one. With the emphasis on raising math scores last year (as RCES was accredited with warning in that area), reading may have fallen from the spotlight, but not from the forefront of the curriculum for junior panthers.

Last year, much attention was dedicated to sifting through reading data, establishing reading levels and goals, tailoring instruction to specific reading needs, and increasing comprehension and fluency. Also emphasized was the use of nonfiction text to engage student interest, such as science trade books and student articles.

Learning to read is a complicated brain process that requires lots of practice. It is much like working out — you may be able to lift only 10-pound weights at first, but the more reps you do over time, the more weight you are able to add. Similarly, the brain processes text this way when learning to read.

It may only be able to handle light, short amounts of text at first, but with more practice — especially fun, engaging practice — the brain makes gains in understanding text structures and finding patterns, leading to higher levels of comprehension. Because of this, it becomes necessary to find innovative ways to motivate those reluctant readers early on, instilling in all students an internal aptitude and affinity for reading — a skill they will use readily for the rest of their lives.

This year, teachers are working on using active reading strategies with fiction and nonfiction, combined with strong systematic phonics instruction. This style of teaching integrates various subject areas such as history or science, engaging students and supporting real life experiences. What does a good reading lesson using these strategies look like?

During classroom walkthroughs last week, I was excited to see lessons in which multiple strategies were being implemented. I observed a lesson on butterflies in which context clues were presented as students explored theories and made “predictions” based upon their “previous knowledge” from their science class.

Shannon Kelley
Shannon Kelley

Students discussed how the vocabulary words connected their spelling lists to this real-life learning. Graphic organizers were used to help categorize information for later recall, and processes were established for student use in realistic nonfiction learning exercises.

So what does all of this mean? It means that students are learning through real life experiences, using the old fashioned skills of “hands on learning,” and teachers are providing that critical support to help build a strong cognitive foundation. Hats off to our teachers for making reading development both fun and stimulating!

— Dr. Donna Matthews, superintendent

Kelley wins wildlife photo contest

Amissville youth Shannon Kelley is a winner in the 2014 Jamestown (New York) Audubon Nature Photography Contest. Her picture, “Rising Up,” won the youth wildlife category.

 Shannon Kelley’s photo, “Rising Up,” took first place in the youth wildlife category.

Shannon Kelley’s photo, “Rising Up,” took first place in the youth wildlife category. Shannon Kelley

“Part of Jamestown Audubon’s mission is to connect people with nature,” noted Audubon program director and contest coordinator Jennifer Schlick. “We hope to inspire all those who view these lovely images.”

The categories for submissions of photographs were landscapes, plants (including trees, fungi, lichens, mosses, etc.) and wildlife (animals in their natural habitats), with adult and youth (18 and younger) divisions in each category.

A total of 165 photographers submitted images. Kelley is a student at Wakefield Country Day School.

All winners received $100; the winning images and finalists can be seen at

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