Mrs. Gray has certainly lived up to and exceeded the reputation that she has in the community as "one of the best". When our daughter, Rachel, met Mrs. Gray this summer at school pool party, we were very impressed with how she got down to Rachel's eye level and talked to her like she had known her forever and asked about her summer and her little brother. Even though Rachel maybe said two words the whole time, Mrs. Gray made Rachel feel so comfortable and excited to start kindergarten. Once school started, that connection to Mrs. Gray continued as Mrs. Gray treats each child like one of her own.
Mrs. Gray has made school so much fun for the kids that often times Rachel forgets that she is learning and just focuses on that fact that school is fun-which, in our opinion, is exactly how it should be. I can't even begin to list all of the activities throughout the year that Mrs. Gray created so that the children would have a fun learning experience. She had a "wedding" between the letters Q & U to show that they go with each other. The kids dressed up as a quaterback or a queen and 2 students walked down the "aisle" for Mrs. Gray to preform the ceremony. At St. Patrick's Day, the kids had built "leprechaun traps"in the art integration class. Mrs. Gray went around the room while the students were not there and left leprechaun footprints so that the kids could track them throughout the room. She had a "warm and fuzzy jar" that would get a pom pom in it when the class would do something good. Once it was filled, they would get a special prize. One of their prizes was to go out and play in the snow. Some of the students had never had the opportunity to do play in the snow before and they had a blast! After every math test, they would have a "snowball" fight in which the kids would crumple up a piece of blank white paper out of their math book, be on two teams and then throw the paper at each other. Whichever team had the most paper on the other team's side at the end would win. On Veteran's Day Mrs. Gray organized a wonderful school wide breakfast/assembly to honor our community's veterans. The whole student body was able to invite a member of the military to breakfast and then an assembly where the kids performed songs followed by a parade throughout the school. On the 100th day of school, Mrs. Gray had a full day planned to help the kids celebrate. They dressed as 100 year old men and women and played games that had to do with the number 100. All of the kids were so excited.
While on recess duty, Mrs. Gray always plays with all of the boys and girls not just in her class but the other kindergarten classes and first grade as well. Often times she would be running in high heels while kids chased her throughout the playground. She also would go with her family to many of the outside activities sponsored by the community or the school. Even though she lives over a half hour away, she brought her family to Green Tree's community day. She volunteered all morning and then spent hours in the afternoon walking around with her husband and two boys, talking to all of the students and their families. Mrs. Gray ran in the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon with her own sons as well as with the school and 6 kids from the classroom. She also went with her family to several dances and Bingo that was sponsored by the Parent Faculty Organization. The students loved seeing her outside of the classroom and would run up to her hugging and giving her high fives.
Mrs. Gray is so encouraging to each of her students. This year's class appeared to have a very wide range of social and intellectual abilities but she made sure that everyone was treated equally. She helped every one of her 21 students grow to their fullest potential. The students that were crying and hiding under their desks at the beginning of the year were standing and singing in front of over 300 people at kindergarten graduation. Rachel, who lacked the confidence to read at the beginning of the year, just 20 minutes ago, got through reading me a 50 page children's book without any assistance. Often times I will catch Rachel saying under her breath, "you've got this, Rachel. You can do it, just try your best. Mrs. Gray's first rule is try your best." Rachel started kindergarten as a quiet, reserved, little girl and has grown into a kind, intelligent leader, much in part to Mrs. Gray.
I had the opportunity to go with the kindergarten class on the field trip to the farm this spring and was blown away with how Mrs. Gray interacted with each child. She was engaging, caring and responsible. You could tell that she works with every child's strengths. While we were at the farm I overheard 3 separate employees comment on how well Mrs. Gray's students were behaving. I believe it was a true reflection on Mrs. Gray and how she handles her classroom. She is a wonderful role model for her students. She shows the children through her actions, what it is like to be a kind, compassionate, intelligent, and strong person. At Christmas time, Mrs. Gray created a reindeer hand print of each child and wrapped it, so that the kids had a present to give their family. She also bought each child 3 gifts including a book. She showed what it was to be a kind person, always thinking of others.
In addition to being great with her students, Mrs. Gray has been great at communicating with the parents. She is very well organized and makes it clear as to what the children are learning as well as what needs to be worked on at home each week. She frequently posted pictures on the Kindergarten Facebook page. It is so nice to be able to sit down with Rachel and talk about the activity that was posted. She also goes above and beyond by responding to e-mail extremely promptly. Often times she will be e-mailing after 8pm, which shows true dedication to her job.
Mrs. Gray is truly deserving of this award as she is not only one of the best teachers but best people, my husband and I have ever met. Mrs. Gray has created an amazing educational and personal foundation that will benefit all of her students for many years to come.