Education centre founder Julia Gabriel dies after battle with cancer
Education centre founder Julia Gabriel, a well-known figure in early childhood education, died early yesterday morning after battling cancer for more than 10 years. She was 67.
Born in England, Ms Gabriel, who was a Singapore permanent resident, opened the Julia Gabriel Speech and Drama Centre for children in 1990 to provide a different learning experience for children.
Her son Mark Gabriel, 44, a director and senior teacher at the centre, told The Straits Times: "She was an incredibly caring and sensitive mother, somebody who was always there for me and my sister, always encouraging and inspiring us.
"Anyone who knew her knew she was always a joy to be around."
Mr Gabriel was inspired by her to be a teacher and spoke of the way she inspired children and even adults to use drama to create an enjoyable learning process.
It led him to obtain a master's in education from Britain's Cambridge University, specialising in arts, culture and education.
Colleagues, like the centre's group managing director Fiona Walker, hailed her as a role model who motivated them to "be their best selves".
Said Ms Walker, who had worked with Ms Gabriel since 1991: "Julia leaves behind a legacy, which she built with love, dedication and generous spirit of sharing and teaching. For everyone she came into contact with, she empowered and enabled them to be their best selves."
The family will hold a private wake, with plans for a memorial service later that the public can attend.
Ms Gabriel was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008. After surgery and chemotherapy, she was given the all-clear.
In 2014, the cancer came back - in the peritoneum, which lines the inside wall of the abdomen.
She had surgery and chemotherapy, but the cancer returned again.
Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the London College of Music, her legacy is her trademarked teaching methodology: EduDrama.
It combines drama with planned educational outcomes to foster learning through interaction and active involvement in young children.
"She had a strong belief that incorporating drama elements and role play into learning was the best way to build people's confidence and their ability to use language and express themselves," said Mr Gabriel.