You often hear people with children say that the schools in Botetourt give them a strong reason to live here. What makes Botetourt schools so good? The teachers who give of themselves above and beyond their classroom jobs. One such: Rebekah Woodie, the coach behind the accolades her James River High School students earned in state wide competition. “It all started with a writing contest within the school,” she said. She got outsiders to act as judges, including a published poet. The winners went on to a workshop where Woodie worked with them on all the fine points of how to write. What they got was a college level experience, similar to those Woodie knew from her years of graduate work at Hollins University.
“Writing means rewriting,” she said, and these students rewrote time and time again. Woodie asked them to clarify, simplify, and rectify their good writing to turn it into excellent writing. All that noncredit work after school illustrated the pains as well as the joys of serious writing. The results: Cheyenne Falls won first place in the state with her poem, “Boots.” Megan Wentworth won second place in the state with her poem, “Summer House.” Ruth Bordett won second place in the state with her essay, “Tell.” Megan Lam won 4th place in the state with her story, “A Corner of the Sky.”
The students submitted a booklet containing all their work. It received a “superior” rating, overall — “the only school to get such as rating,” Woodie noted.
Woodie, 59, grew up on a farm, that of her parents, Fincastle’s Bob and Phyllis, and lives today on another in Blue Ridge with her own family and horses, sheep and dogs. But that leaves out her professional story. A Lord Botetourt High graduate, she followed that with a degree in theater from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Hollins MA. And she later fit in three years of night classes at the Roanoke Graduate Center to get her degree in library science, as well.
After a job teaching in Richmond city schools right out of college, she worked as a Blue Ridge Writing Project fellow in Roanoke County schools. Teaching writing, of course. “I went from school to school, working with kids who wanted to write.” However, so did she, so she started another career, this time, freelance writing for area publications. And managed Hollins summer programs and taught at Virginia Western as an adjunct. Plus married and had two children. And somehow she made time to work as a coauthor on textbooks on writing.
Another job, as special events and public relations coordinator for the arts at the Art Museum of Western Virginia, now the Taubman, led her back to teaching again.
Now as a full time teacher at River for ten years, she has supervised many literary projects, including the magazine Currents. Like her individual students, the magazine has won many awards, too. This year marked another time River students did well in state competition under her supervision.
Woodie’s life with horses has run as a backdrop through all her various careers — riding, caring for, doctoring, breeding, training horses. She calls them her “passion.” And she loves teaching riding to children, especially those who have difficulties with other activity.
She hopes one day to set up a training stable, or maybe to work as a librarian. No telling what this talented woman will continue to do as she enriches our entire county.