Henrico’s Top Teachers – Marsha Grahek

Marsha Grahek knows how to treat bullies.

With compassion.

Grahek, an exceptional education teacher at Tuckahoe Middle School, has seen it all in her career as a social worker and exceptional education teacher. The students who act tough and try to intimidate classmates or teachers aren’t fooling her.

"The ones who try to intimidate are the ones who are hurting the most," she said, explaining how she approaches such students. “I say, ‘I’ve seen you helping another person, you're just trying to act big and bad – I know the game you're playing.’ Sometimes then they'll start smiling. I'll say, ‘You know what you're doing – I'm not scared of you. I care about you, I want the best for you.’”

Her approach has worked wonders for numerous students at the school, according to colleagues.

“Ms. Grahek is a special education teacher who helps students who are struggling to succeed,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “She shows great sympathy towards these students and refuses to give up on them.”

Frequently, the colleague wrote, Grahek works with students who are not part of her daily caseload.

Another colleague cited Grahek’s compassion and willingness to help students however possible – even outside of school. In one case, she assisted an eighth-grader (who was homeless and living out of a car with his mother) after his mother died unexpectedly.

“She took him into her home that Christmas and shared the love of her family with him,” the colleague wrote. “He went on to high school, into foster care, was finally adopted and relocated out of town. He asked his new adoptive mother to invite Mrs. Grahek to the adoption ceremony because the adoptive mother reminded him of Mrs. Grahek, he said.

“Without the nurturing Marsha gave to this student when she did, I seriously doubt there would be the happy ending to the story.”

Such examples are logical, given the compassion that Grahek has shown people she doesn’t even know. Years ago, a pastor introduced her to a Kenyan man in Richmond who was nearly destitute but refused to accept donations of food because his family in Kenya was suffering.

“He said, I cannot eat while my family is dying,” Grahek recalled. So she pulled out the money in her pocket, wired it to his family and thus began a relationship that continues today. It led her to create Project Respect, a nonprofit organization that has raised money for the man’s village for some 15 years. It currently supports 200 people with its annual donations.

Grahek traveled to the village several years ago and was overcome with the joy and excitement the villagers showed her.

More recently, the organization sought to help those in need in this country and has partnered with an organization in the Appalachian town of Calf Creek Hollow, Kentucky, to provide food, basic necessities, Christmas presents, school supplies – and next month a weeklong summer camp for needy children there.

"We wanted to help people that nobody else was helping,” Grahek said.

Several of her fellow teachers will be joining her for the trip in June.

“Marsha is a leader in planning, implementation, and evaluation by means of instruction that is student-centered,” a colleague wrote. “Her innovative means of teaching opens doors that could otherwise remain closed.”
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The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

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Innsbrook After Hours continues its 32nd year with Aaron Lewis’ The Sinner Tour and special guest Travis Marvin. After releasing seven studio albums between 1996 and 2011 with his rock band Staind, singer, songwriter and guitarist Aaron Lewis went solo — and he went country. Gates open at 5 p.m. Show begins at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Net proceeds from the concert series benefit the American Constitution Spirit Foundation and the Innsbrook Foundation. Rain or shine. For tickets and more information, call the IAH Hotline at 423-1779 or visit http://www.innsbrookafterhours.com. Full text

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