"He was such a sweet little boy, always smiling and always ready to do whatever we had for the session," said his preschool teacher Emelder O'Neil.
She said the little boy, who went by "JJ," was non-verbal, but even through his virtual lessons, he made progress every day. By May, Jhakeel was reciting his colors, earning him the "Most Improved Student" award.
"He said the color blue for the first time when I asked him the color," recalled O'Neil. "He finally said it without us saying it first, and mom and I ... we start clapping and giving him the praises. He started smiling and giving mommy kisses and stuff. It was amazing."
It was a small milestone but it was proof this young child wanted more.
Jhakeel never got to reach his potential. He died Sunday, June 6, at Houston Northwest Hospital. Houston police said his mother and her boyfriend brought the child in with injuries on several parts of his body.
READ ORIGINAL REPORT: HPD investigating death of 4-year-old who was found with severe trauma on parts of his body
The investigation was centered on a Gears Road apartment in Greenspoint.
Tim Miller with Texas EquuSearch said HPD's Homicide Unit contacted him to help search for evidence, where he learned details about the Jhakeel's injuries.
"There's nothing in the world this little 4-year-old would have done to deserve this ... and I'll probably say it like this, the torture and the pain he went through prior to his death," said Miller.
The boy's cause of death is still pending and no one has been arrested or charged.
O'Neil said the Jhakeel missed his pre-school graduation weeks before his death. He never received his very first award or met the teacher who got him to start talking.
"Just to think about it, it's really sad that he wasn't protected," said O'Neil.
Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
Follow Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.