Henrico’s Top Teachers – Jehan Gabrual

Though she grew up in Henrico County, Jehan Gabrual's parents were natives of Egypt who struggled with the English language when they arrived in this country. As a child, she witnessed the way her teachers at Crestview Elementary School – particularly Cindy Harris and Peggy Hart – supported her family and helped ensure that she excelled in class.

In return, Gabrual found herself anxious to help those teachers in any way.

"As a child, I always wanted to grade papers," she said, laughing at the recollection.

The inspiration to teach only grew stronger, and Gabrual graduated from the University of Richmond with a teaching degree, anxious to put it to use helping students the same way she had been helped.

Now in her eleventh year at Dumbarton Elementary School, she feels she is living her purpose.

The school has a number of immigrant families – including some from Egypt whose children speak Arabic, as she does. She can call upon her childhood experiences when working to build connections – and trust – with those families and students.

"When I have parents who are struggling with a language, I try my best to build a strong relationship, try different ways to communicate with them," Gabrual said. "Some may be afraid to come into the school building, like my parents were. I try to go above and beyond in contacting them."

Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed among her peers.

Gabrual is "a teacher that embraces not just the child but the entire family,” one colleague wrote. "She reaches out to families and helps to provide resources that the parents can use to help develop their children so that they are better prepared for school. She is a role model to her students and parents. She is a part of their village.”

In her classroom, Gabrual keeps a board on which students may, at any time, make notations when someone has done something kind or very kind – or when they've shown kindness themselves.

"If they are able to participate in kind ways in school, then maybe it will carry on outside the classroom," she said.

As part of the "Dumbarton Pays It Forward" program, which Gabrual chaired for several years, her students have written and delivered letters on a nearly monthly basis to veterans, nursing home patients and others "just so that they know we're out here supporting them," she said.

"I want children to love learning – that's my whole motto. If they enjoy learning and think learning is fun, then you'll be able to see the successes."

And even now – well-established in her own right as an elementary school teacher, she thinks back to her own days as a student.

"I always told [Harris] that I wanted to be like her when I grow up," she said of her Crestview teacher, who still teaches at that school. "I still tell her that I want to be just like her."
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Henrico Business Bulletin Board

September 2017

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Henrico's Top Teachers

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