As the freshmen sat ready to study the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr.Gray suddenly danced with adrenaline down the aisle and belted out Adele’s “Hello.”
“Dr. Gray is a character!” Cha’Brya Harris, 9th, said. “She always puts a smile on anyone’s face. Her personality lights up the room.”
After 44 years in education, Dr.Gray has decided to retire to spend more time with her 90-year-old mother and maybe even eventually write a book or two as her friends and family have urged her to do.
“I also plan to visit my two daughters and four brilliant and delightful grandchildren, travel far and near, and read, read, READ!” Dr. Gray said. “I have always had a passion for volunteer work so I plan to be more active in the community as well.”
Dr. Gray’s internship at Pine Bluff High School in the early 1970s is what hooked her on teaching and forever changed the direction of her life.
“My original desire upon entering college was to become a diva of the opera,” Dr. Gray said. “Fortunately for me, my adviser convinced me to take courses in general education just in case.”
After one year as a music teacher in the Pocola School District, Dr. Gray headed to Northside High School in 1975 where she taught high school English for 23 years. She then chose to try out junior high and has been at Kimmons ever since.
“Dr. Gray’s best attribute as an educator is that she still has that ‘old school’ approach that demands respect and responsibility from the students,” Mrs. Springs, English and Oral Communications teacher, said. The two have worked together for sixteen years.
Principal Watkins also admires Dr. Gray’s professionalism.
“Dr. Gray is organized, thoughtful, loves her students and wants to make a difference every day,” Principal Watkins said. “She carries herself as a professional educator and represents Kimmons well.”
Even with her commanding presence, Dr. Gray has faced some challenges as a teacher.
“One of my biggest challenges has been to accept that I cannot make every student love to read and study grammar and literature as I do,” Dr. Gray said. “I cannot make them all understand that good grammar skills help them make a good impression on others. I will never be able to instill in all of my students that reading and analyzing literature can enrich their lives by adding a new dimension of learning and living. But as long as I can reach some, as long as there are those who come back to tell me how much they appreciate all that they learned from me, as long as there are those who say ‘I want my child/grandchild to have you,’ then I know that my teaching has not been in vain.”
Dr. Gray’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“Dr. Gray is fun, amazing, and very intelligent,” America Cruz, 9th, said. “She makes us think about what we learn and inspires us to do more than just what is expected. I am glad to have had her as my teacher.”
In addition to being focused, Dr. Gray enjoys having fun with her students.
“My favorite memory of Dr. Gray is when she tried to do the Whip and Nae Nae,” Jaida Whitfield, 9th, said. “It was very funny.”
Students and co-workers alike have fond memories of times they’ve encountered her.
“My favorite memory is when we were presenting projects and Isaiah MacIntire danced to Michael Jackson music and Dr. Gray got up and started dancing, too,” Jasmine Lindsey, 9th, said.
Dr. Gray is well respected.
“I will miss the camaraderie we have shared as we prepared lessons for 9th grade English,” Mrs. Brence said. “We have a very special working relationship that I have never had with any other teacher, and I am grateful to have worked with such an excellent teacher.”
Freshmen are also grateful.
“Dr. Gray is a fun-loving teacher who cares for and loves her students,” Justin Maymoundok, 9th, said. “What I will most is her enthusiasm to teach her students every day.”
Inclusion co-teacher Ms. Florez values how vivid and real Dr. Gray makes her lessons, admires the respect that she gains from her students, and will “sorely miss working with Dr. Gray.”
“We have meshed together like peas and carrots this year,” Ms. Florez said. “I will miss bursting into song with her and having conversations with our students. We laugh at ourselves quite a bit, but having fun with our students is the best part. I have found a great friend in Dr. Gray and will miss her on a daily basis next school year.”
Ms. Mullin, 8th Language Arts teacher, also values the bond with Dr. Gray.
“I am as shy and introverted as Dr. Gray is bold and crazy, plus I cannot carry a tune to save my life, and yet we have become great friends over the past four years,” Ms. Mullin said. “Dr. Gray has boosted me back up when I am doubting my skills as an educator. She has challenged me when I’m in the wrong. And we have made each other nearly roll out of our seats in laughter when out to eat at local restaurants. I won’t say I’m going to miss her because she promised we would continue our eating-out shenanigans post retirement, and I’m going to hold her to that!”
Dr. Gray’s freshmen enjoy her sense of humor, too.
“Dr. Gray is a powerful, inspirational teacher who can also be funny, too,” Muhammad Abdulrahim, 9th, said. “I will miss every lesson being a life lesson. I’d leave class every day knowing something new about life.”
The feelings are mutual.
“I will miss the students because I love working with our youth,” Dr. Gray said. “Since my own children and grandchildren do not live close, I am so devoted to all the Kimmons students, even the ones I do not have in class. I was told many years ago that you have to develop a ‘taste’ for teaching. Well, I think teaching has been my calling, and I thank God that I answered the call!”