School and sports news for Aug. 20

Panther Pride: Meeting 21st-century learning skills

RCES reading intervention teacher Katherine Todd (kneeling) and RCPS director of instruction Shannon Grimsley (standing) work with students using Imagine Learning Instructional Software.
RCES reading intervention teacher Katherine Todd (kneeling) and RCPS director of instruction Shannon Grimsley (standing) work with students using Imagine Learning Instructional Software. Jimmy Swindler | Rappahannock News
With all the attention in education tending to go to the latest advanced-placement offering or the newest way to use technology to teach, often the focus on the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — seems to get lost in the headlines. But not so at Rappahannock County Public Schools (RCPS), where staff is focused on using the latest 21st-century technologies and teaching skills to strengthen and enhance all of our instruction, particularly reading.

Recognizing that reading skills are a basic building block of learning, RCPS places great emphasis on the goal of ensuring that all our students are reading at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. This past summer, several new instructional programs have been added to the curriculum to help staff and students continue to reach that goal.

Among the new and exciting programs being offered this year at RCPS are Imagine Learning, a computer-based intervention program for our pre-K through grade 7 learners. Imagine Learning uses video-game techniques in its operating system, bringing instant familiarity to most of our students. The program provides skill-based data reports on student progress with corresponding lesson suggestions for individual students to ensure that all are getting the reading instruction they most need. English-language learners also benefit from this program with instruction in English but directions in the student’s first language. Imagine Learning was piloted at RCPS last year with a sampling group, and the positive results led to the current school-wide roll-out of the program.

Language Live, a program created by Yale reading expert Louisa Moats, is designed to enhance reading skills for middle and high school students. Using the program, teachers can lead reading instruction in a computer and social-media context that appeals to the targeted age group. Teachers can also get data on demand for their instruction. As with Imagine Learning, a very positive pilot run last year led to our expanding this program to more of our students.

Related to instruction but in a more administrative context, Naviance is a new guidance-department program for testing the aptitude of our middle school students (grades 6-8). Naviance aligns aptitudes with possible career pathways, giving our eighth-grade students an academic and career plan that extends through their first two years of college. This easily meets the state mandate that all students complete an academic career plan. The program is also tied into the National Clearing House for college programs, storing and tracking student data through their educational years.

Last, but certainly not least, many of the RCPS staff members recently received professional development on a variety of topics designed to strengthen and support instruction. Some elementary and support staff were led by principal Cathy Jones in a professional development workshop on project-based learning. Project-based learning uses best practices in inquiry-based student learning whereby individual or small-group projects are designed to answer a question or solve a problem. In addition to aligning instruction so that it covers all content, teachers were guided on the practice of using teacher-made summary assessments to gauge student mastery as well as predict success and mastery of the required standards of learning.

Director of technology Robin Bolt and high school assistant principal Danelle Sperling trained staff on a sampling of new instructional strategies that use new technology devices and programs. And elementary school assistant principal Karen Ellis worked with her math teachers to guide them on recent developments in math instruction best practices.

Also related to ongoing professional development, RCPS is partnering with Wakefield Country Day School, Mountain Laurel Montessori School and the Hearthstone School to participate in a program that enables teachers to attend free workshops presented by nationally renowned presenters. This partnership, sponsored by the Lord Fairfax Community College Educational Consortium, is funded by the federally allocated money for RCPS’ meaningful consultation programs for professional development.

As our students and parents settle in to the first few weeks of school, they can be assured that the RCPS instructional staff is well versed in the most effective strategies and techniques designed to improve instruction. And while the emphasis in many cases is on our reading instruction, teachers can tell you that all of these new programs have attributes that lend themselves to effective instruction of any content. Keeping our staff familiar with 21st-century practices will bring continued success to our schools and students.

— Jimmy Swindler

Music lessons

The Rappahannock Music Lesson Program offers reasonably priced music lessons on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Rappahannock County High School, says program coordinator Kathryn Treanor. “Let our experienced instructors help you or your young student become more musical and confident musicians.”

Lessons are taught after school and in the evening. The schedule:

Wednesdays: Guitar with Anders Drew, a great blues guitarist in local bands; low brass with Josh Cole, James Madison University music graduate and a terrific tuba and trombone player who performs with the Virginia National Guard band; trumpet, horn, guitar and percussion with Logan Desabrais, who has a music education degree from Shenandoah University (SU).

Thursdays: Flute with Larissa West, who earned her master’s degree in flute teaching from SU; piano with Cindy Xia, a doctoral student in piano at SU; trumpet, horn, guitar and percussion with Logan Desabrais, who has a music education degree from SU; clarinet and sax with Danielle Confletti, a senior at SU studying music education.

“If you are interested in a different instrument,” Treanor says, “let me know and I’ll see what we can do.”

Lessons cost $17 per half-hour lesson. Limited scholarship funds are available.

“Lessons make a huge difference in how a student learns to play and enjoys playing their instrument,” Treanor says. “Contact me, and we’ll figure out a time that works well for your family.” Treanor can be reached at

Area residents named to Virginia Tech Dean’s List

The following Virginia Tech students from Rappahannock County were named to the dean’s list for the spring 2015 semester:

Dylan F. Hitt (Amissville), a freshman majoring in general business in the Pamplin College of Business; Tiffany A. Wayland (Sperryville), a senior majoring in agribusiness in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Lucy A. Van Ness (Washington), a sophomore majoring in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Taylor M. Light (Woodville), a senior majoring in music in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.​

To qualify for the dean’s list, students must complete at least 12 credit hours graded on the A-F option and earn a 3.4 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) during the semester.

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