Juandalynn Ray doesn’t look at teaching as just an opportunity to stand in front of a classroom full of students, but rather as a chance to help teachers grow and develop a love for the profession.
Recently named one of two finalists for the 2017 Sandhills Region Teacher of the Year, Ray was named the Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year in June. She is a seventh grade language arts teacher at Sampson Middle School. Ray and a fellow teacher from Moore County are vying for the regional placement.
“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.”
If selected from the 16 teachers who are semi-finalist from their region, Ray will then be among eight public school teachers and one charter school teacher who are vying for the title of North Carolina State Teacher of the Year.
Just last week, Ray had to travel to Hamlet for her interview and then was notified of the selection on Friday.
“The interview lasted about 30 minutes,” Ray said. “And in that time, I had to answer 11 questions, making sure that I answer all the questions and adequately answered them.”
While driving home, Ray said she took the time to think and reflect on her experience during the interview.
“I felt good leaving that interview,” she added.
On Dec. 5, Ray said the Regional Teacher of the Year Selection Team will visit Sampson Middle School to spend the day talking with Ray’s coworkers, students and parents. During their visit, Ray said they will observe two classes and get a first hand look at the instruction taking place in the classroom.
“Ms. Ray is a teacher that adds rigor and excitement to the classes that she teaches,” Dr. Stuart Blount, superintendent, said. “Students and her colleagues speak highly of her positive attitude and extreme smile. She adds that extra special touch to Clinton City Schools. We are ecstatic for her progression to the next level of being the teacher of the year, and we wish her the best of luck. I am confident that she will continue to represent Clinton City Schools and the Sandhills Region well.”
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 Sampson Middle Principal 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.”
Teaching isn’t just about students, according to Ray, who has served as a mentor to many beginning teachers.
“This will allow many doors to open,” Ray shared. “I have the opportunity to have an affect on education by affecting new teachers. I am able to help more kids through the teachers I help.”
A decision about the regional title will be made after Christmas and the state level announcement will come in March.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.