Clinton City Schools has a lot of which they should be proud. The fact that Sampson Middle School teacher Juandalynn Ray has been named as the 2017 Sandhills Region Teacher of the Year can be added to the list.
The entire student body and staff of the school assembled in the gym just before the end of the day Friday, and the announcement came from Bobbie J. Cavnar, the 2016 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. Ray was one of two finalists for the title, after being named Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year.
Despite being under the weather, Ray couldn’t hold back the tears as the announcement was made.
“It was both an honor and a privilege being selected by my peers as the representative from Clinton City Schools,” Ray shared. “The regional selection is just icing on the cake.”
What started as a pep rally for students quickly turned into a celebration Friday afternoon, as SMS principal Greg Dirks, dressed as Santa Claus, sat beside Ray and asked what she wanted for Christmas. While he said many had been bad this year and were getting coal, he quickly told the crowd of all the good Ray is doing at the school.
“They could not have picked a better teacher,” Dirks said. “Ms. Ray is one of the most dedicated teachers, and has a strong passion for students.”
After being selected from a pool of 15 other teachers, Ray is now among eight public school teachers and one charter school teacher who are vying for the title of North Carolina State Teacher of the Year.
On Dec. 5, the Regional Teacher of the Year Selection Team visited Sampson Middle School to spend the day talking with Ray’s coworkers, students and parents. During their visit, Ray said they observed two classes and got a first hand look at the instruction taking place in the classroom.
“Ms. Ray’s excitement for teaching and the profession is something that fellow teachers and students can aspire to,” Clinton City Schools superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount shared. “We are grateful to have the Sandhills Regional Teacher of the Year working with our Dark Horses. We wish her the best of luck at the state level.”
Humbled by the whole 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. “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.
Under the leadership of 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.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.