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New Principal Highlight: Educational Excellence with a Heart-Centered Approach

New Growth Public School Principal Devonna Abbott brings a heart-centered approach and commitment to education as key to crafting a clear identity for children.

Recently-hired Growth Public School Principal Devonna Abbott is no stranger to struggle. Mrs. Abbott grew up in poverty in Washington, D.C., in a home where “My mother battled drug addiction, and my dad worked three jobs, which made him present physically but absent in other ways”. As a child, she loved going to school, but with such intense challenges at home, often found herself crunched up under a tree with a book at recess.

“Despite my love of reading, I struggled a lot during elementary school. Then in eighth grade, I had a math teacher who saw something special in me. At the time, I was performing at a second grade level. She worked with me consistently and by the end of the year, I had brought myself up to grade level.”

Mrs. Abbott eventually went on to earn a college scholarship, and is currently in the process of completing a doctoral program in education. She has been in elementary education for 17 years. Her own educational journey, she shared in a recent interview, instilled in her a firm belief that education is the most important factor in determining the trajectory of your life. “I pursued my education and it has benefited me so much in the long run. In fact, it’s the one thing no one can ever take away from me,” she declared. “We all go through struggles. In my case, this has included health and financial challenges, as well as divorce. But education is the one thing for which what you put in is what you get out. And after that, it’s yours. I value that. I appreciate that. It’s something I instill in my children. It’s what I stand on,” she continued.

So when Mrs. Abbott was diagnosed with Lupus in 2014, she used the lessons she had learned throughout her educational journey to persevere. “The doctors initially thought it was MS. At the time, I couldn't walk, had trouble speaking, and my equilibrium was off. I couldn’t even walk in a straight line. My entire body was shutting down.” She was eventually correctly diagnosed and is now doing much better. She uses her own experience of physical and cognitive decline to connect more deeply with students at GPS, especially those who may be struggling.

Education as Heart Work

Mrs. Abbott offers a heart-centered approach to all children she meets and is passionate about education both inside the classroom and in her own home, where she is mother to seven children ranging from ages 18 to four months. “Children light me up,” she shared. “I believe wholeheartedly that education is my heart work. Being a mom of seven, I get to see both students who struggle and students who ‘succeed’. Watching both sides motivates me to be present and to do the work so that every child feels seen and heard and valued. There’s something so special about supporting kids on both sides of the pendulum. When you have kids excel and it comes easily, it’s rewarding and fulfilling. But when the lightbulb moment happens for the struggling students, it is such a delight, reminding me what a privilege it is to get to do this work.”

Investing in the Whole Child

“I’m all in. And by that I mean that I am willing to do whatever it takes to show up for the whole child. We must feed a hungry child before we expect them to learn. And if they need a hug, we give it before expecting them to show up as a learner. Here at GPS, we are committed to meeting the child’s educational needs while also caring for their mental, physical, and emotional well being. When I started work here earlier this summer, I discovered my own approach was naturally aligned well with GPS’s vision and mission of fostering diverse learners who excel academically and emotionally. So this community is a great fit!”

Mrs. Abbott would like all families to know that “I have a big heart and I am here to serve. Also, equity is the force that drives me as a leader. Every family may not get the same things from me, but I strive to make sure everyone has what they need. I am committed to being the backbone and the anchor for our families.”

Schedule a tour today to meet Mrs. Abbott, learn more about her and check out the Growth Public School community.

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