Juandalynn Ray loved pretending to be a teacher after school — grading papers, putting up bulletin boards and talking about lesson plans with her mother. Even as a young child, she knew she wanted to spend her adult life educating America’s future.
Ray was honored for that passion and love of teaching Wednesday afternoon, as she was named the 2016-2017 Jack and Kitty Morisey Teacher of the Year for Clinton City Schools.
“Once they started talking about my involvement, I knew they were talking about me,” Ray said after receiving the honor.
The Sampson Middle School teacher was one of five nominated for the honor. In addition to Ray, other nominees were Alvin Antonio of Clinton High School, Amy Spell of Sunset Avenue, Sharnee’ White of Butler Avenue and Sandra Cannady of L.C. Kerr.
Smiling from ear to ear, Ray couldn’t accept the honor without expressing her appreciation for her co-workers.
“I couldn’t do any of the things I do without the help of my SMS family,” Ray shared.
Humbled by the experience, Ray said the decision to become a teacher was easy, as she was the daughter of an educator. In the afternoons after school, Ray said she would visit her mother’s classroom at L.C. Kerr and learned to appreciate how much work went into being a teacher.
“I hope my mom is smiling at me now,” Ray said following Wednesday’s presentation. “I know she is looking down on me. I just hope I have been a great example of what she taught me.”
As part of the Sampson Middle School staff, Ray is a member of the School Improvement Team, the co-chair of the English Language Arts Department, co-chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department and serves as a mentor in the Buddy Program.
For the last three years, Ray has been a seventh grade language arts teacher at Sampson Middle School. Under the leadership of Greg Dirks, Ray has been privileged to develop outstanding relationships with her students, parents and fellow teachers.
“Ms. Ray is truly one of the most professional educators I have worked with in the 20 plus years I have been in education,” Dirks said. “Her nurturing and fostering of relationships with the students, parents and faculty members leaves you wondering ‘how does she do it.’”
After graduating from Clinton High School, Ray received her bachelor of arts in history from Elon University and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Grand Canyon University. Ray was the first recipient of the N.C. Teaching Fellows from Clinton City Schools.
In 2015, Ray accepted the job of director of the Blazing Stars program that helps students from L.C. Kerr, Butler Avenue and Sunset Avenue. Despite staying busy being a teacher during the day and directing the tutoring program after school, Ray stays busy assisting at Sampson Middle.
“Sampson Middle School is a better school because of her (Ray) hard work and dedication to the young people of this community,” Dirks added. “Saturday Academy, afterschool tutorials, and lunch-brunch are all avenues that she uses in reaching the children of our school.”
Ray says she is a strong believer in all students learning, regardless of their ability level.
“For some, the pace will be slower than others, and in some cases the depth and extend of study in a given area of the curriculum will vary,” Ray shared in her teaching portfolio. “All students must be provided with a safe and productive learning environment. Once all educators believe and enforce these perspectives, we will possess a democratization of education.”
Clinton City School superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount agrees with Ray’s philosophy of teaching.
“Ms. Ray is a teacher that adds rigor and excitement to the classes that she teaches,” Blount said. “Students and her colleagues speak highly of her positive attitude and extreme smile. She adds that extra special touch to Clinton City Schools, and is well deserving of being the 2016-2017 Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year. I am confident that she will represent Clinton City Schools well.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.