Retired Henley Teacher Still Sparks Student Writers

Retired Henley Teacher Still Sparks Student Writers

Former Henley Middle School English teacher Jane Webb continues to teach writing to local students. Photo: Malcolm Andrews. After more than forty years spent happily teaching English to two generations of middle schoolers, educator Jane Webb has launched her own creative classroom in Crozet. Her new venture, located in the Crozet Speech and Learning Center on Jarmans Gap Road, is called Studio13 The Art of Acceleration, and Webb is thrilled to be back with her young tribe.

“I love adolescents, I think they are hilarious,” said Webb, who taught sixth grade English at Henley Middle School for most of her career. “I think they have depth that sometimes we don’t readily see because they are figuring out so much about life in the world. I’m challenged by them, I’m fascinated by them, and I’m highly entertained by them. They have a sense of independence—one day they’ll need attention and the next they’re very mature—and I like that range of emotion.”

When she retired after the 2019-20 school year (a plan made the prior summer), Webb thought about the things she might do—start a blog, travel, play more golf—but the pandemic caused a panic among families unsure about virtual learning. “In July of 2020, my phone started ringing,” she said. “Parents began calling to ask ‘do you want to teach again?’ and ‘are you interested in doing pandemic pods in Albemarle county and teaching on porches?’”

Though she’d dreamt of one day hanging out her own shingle to continue some form of teaching, she said, “I felt like whatever business I started, it was going to have to be on my terms. It would be academically challenging enrichment, not remediation,” she said. So, Webb began to teach herself the ropes. Former Henley Middle School English teacher Jane Webb and her students outside the Crozet Speech and Learning Center. Left to right: (back row) Ethan Kesser, Sydney Sever, Jane Webb, Ika Gottlieb, Kat Gott, (front row) Asher Nathan, Gray Tracey. Photo: Malcolm Andrews. She formed an LLC and made arrangements with Crozet Speech and Learning Center to use an open space in their building to hold classes. “[Owners] Alison [MacCleery] and Nina [Schoeb] are just incredible,” she said. “I still like the feel of chalk in my hand, and they painted one wall with chalkboard paint for me.” She spent August and September of 2020 planning what to offer and how to meaningfully compress her course content, and in October began teaching two classes of eight students each on Fridays (an asynchronous learning day where students had no class meetings).

“My approach to teaching hasn’t changed, but what’s been challenging is how to concentrate the units into instruction and practice that they can absorb, that’s memorable and effective,” said Webb. Now that she’s moved to an after-school model this year, she offers classes in language analytics (grammar), Shakespeare, free verse poetry, and even bookbinding, all with a focus on writing, each running for seven or eight weeks. As the name of her new studio suggests, […]

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