“There’s something that happens every single day in my classroom that tells me I made the right decision and I’m where I should be,” Lawton Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year Ashley Ghrayyeb said.
While in college, she accepted a job in an extended day program where she “fell in love with the kids and their families,” she said.
“Just becoming a part of their lives and seeing them day in and day out, offering stability and taking care of them, that brought it home to me.”
While earning her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Cameron, Ghrayyeb served as a long-term substitute teacher at her childhood school, Hugh Bish Elementary, the class she eventually took over. She has since transferred to Crosby Park Elementary. In the classroom, Ghrayyeb focuses on laying the foundation to set them up to be successful little learners.
“It’s such a special, precious time because you have the sweetness and innocence of childhood combined and you see them blossom,” she stated. “They come in so precious and everything’s so new, and by the time they leave they’re prepared.”
Ghrayyeb enjoys connecting with her students personally, giving each of them invaluable time each day to discuss whatever comes to mind, she said. She also encourages communication between parents/ guardians to ensure each child’s needs are addressed in order to help them succeed.
“I make it a priority to always give each of my students my full attention at least once a day because something significant could happen overnight and if I didn’t give them that chance to tell me about it that day, I would miss that opportunity. Those are the moments where the deepest connections are made.”
Providing a language-rich environment, Ghrayyeb helps children with communications skills on both ends of the language gap.
“Some kids are already advanced in their language skills,” she said. “But then also we help the kids who aren’t because they have to make up for that lost time in order to use their language to appropriately express themselves.”
Over the years, Ghrayyeb has become aware of the challenges many students face outside the classroom.
“There’s a lot of talk about childhood trauma and how that is affecting our students cognitively and how it affects their behaviors. Many times, teachers are the first to see the signs. As those issues unfold, teachers need to help the child navigate through the situation,” she stated.
Keeping open lines of communication, the PreK teacher hopes to build on the relationships with parents/guardians to help each child succeed.
“I want them to have access to me. I’m with their kids all day, and should they need something, I want them to feel like my door is always open,” she said.
For her contribution to her students, the Ghrayyeb has been awarded the Lawton Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 and was named Teacher of the Year at Crosby Park Elementary.
“The teachers at my school chose me as the Crosby Teacher of the Year, which was such an honor because I work with some of the most fabulous teachers who are inspiring and dedicated,” she said. “The fact that they would recognize me was really meaningful.”
Ghrayyeb has also been awarded the Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma Outstanding Teacher of Today, LPS Extra Mile Award in 2012, Champion for Children for LPS in 2012 and the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women’s Citizen of the Month in 2019.
Serving as mentor for upcoming teachers, she was also awarded Cameron’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
“The Outstanding Young Alumni Award was something I am really proud of. Cameron’s education department is phenomenal. I know how much work they put into preparing their teachers. Cameron really prepared me for what I was going to do in the classroom. I had the techniques in my toolbox to use when I became a teacher. And those are the things that I picked up at Cameron.”
In the community, witnessing food scarcity’s effect on children, Ghrayyeb volunteers with Lawton Food Bank’s Food For Kids program. “That is a program that is dear to my heart,” she said. “I have seen students who didn’t have enough to eat and the difference that that backpack can make in their life,” she said.
Ghrayyeb is also involved in the Junior League of Lawton, lending support to local organizations such as the Lawton Food Bank, Parker Point Home for Girls and Washington Elementary’s literacy program.
“To have the opportunity to be with like minded women and step out into the community to make a difference...it’s incredible,” stated Ghrayyeb.
Like many educators, Ghrayyeb has centered her life around supporting children in the community as well as in the classroom to help ensure students’ success.
“We know that early childhood education can improve cognitive ability and strengthens critical behavior traits like social skills, developing self-esteem, confidence in the classroom, setting the foundation for students to be successful in later years.
“Not only are we creating career-bound citizens, we’re creating well-rounded children who have emotional and cognitive strengths,” she said. “Early childhood classrooms are crucial to creating well-rounded, well-adapted students with excellent social skills.
“I’m so proud to be part of a state that places such value on our youngest, littlest learners.”