Jeanette Ray of Montpelier is one of the new teachers at the Bear Lake Middle School for this school year. She is teaching algebra and pre-algebra.
Mrs. Ray grew up in Las Vegas, the fourth child in a family of 10 children; she has six brothers and three sisters. She graduated from Basic High School in Henderson, Nevada, in 1993, then spent a couple of years at BYU studying economics and math. After that, she got married and put her husband through college.
Mrs. Ray has six children: Isaac (18) just graduated and will be attending BYU-Idaho; Justin (15) will be a sophomore at Bear Lake High School and is playing football and will be wrestling, which he loves; Alyssa (13) will be in the 8th grade at Bear Lake Middle School and will be in her mom’s math class. She also does cross country and is on the cheer team. Akemi (12) will be in the 7th grade, also at the Middle School, and Mrs. Ray says that both Alyssa and Akemi are super smart and work really hard. They have both been helping her get her classroom ready for the school year. Kaelyn (10) will be in the 5th grade; and Wyman (8) who actually goes by the name of “Captain,” will be in the 3rd grade at AJ Winters. They are all really good at school and work hard according to their mom. Kaelyn loves soccer and Captain likes flag football and will probably play soccer, basketball, and baseball. They are all excited to go back to school; they have missed it. They love the Bear Lake area and the fact that they can do so many things in such a small community.
Before moving to Montpelier in 2011, they lived in upstate New York for approximately seven years. The kids’ father works for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his job took him there. In 2011, his job brought him to the Bear Lake area, and they really love it here. They love the small community and the good schools. Mrs. Ray says, “Certainly during this time, it shows how blessed we are and how nice it is to have a small community where I can send my kids to such great schools.”
Mrs. Ray is excited about teaching. She says the eighth grade is using the Summit Program this year, so it is all online already, which is definitely a benefit if the students end up having to go home to learn because of COVID-19. They will already have their curriculum online. She has looked into the virtual lessons the curriculum has already provided for online teaching. This is also beneficial because there are quite a few students starting out the school year online rather than in the classroom. There are a lot of video lessons to teach the concepts as well. There will also be Zoom lessons to help them and to allow the teachers to meet with them to have interaction and one-on-one help when they need it.
One of the things Mrs. Ray wants to emphasize and will be teaching is the “mathematical mindset,” which says “the process is just as important as the answer.” This teaches them mistakes are valued and expected and students shouldn’t be afraid to make them; it’s just part of the learning process. This is to change the idea some have that “certain people are good at math and some aren’t.” There is scientific evidence proving this is not the case. She says she wants to change the students’ mindset of thinking “I’m not good at math so I won’t do well.” They actually can do well. The collaboration between students is also important; they can build off of each other.
Mrs. Ray definitely wants to share with the students her enthusiasm for math and “that it can be fun and engaging; it can be fun and interesting.” Her goal is to try to present it more as a mystery they can solve and figure out together. That’s how she looks at it. Questions are encouraged and different ways of doing things are also valued and wanted. She also wants the students to share.
She was involved with a lesson recently where a flash went up in front of the group with seven dots. They were told not to count them, but to figure out how many dots there were just by looking at it quickly. They were told to find a pattern that worked for them to figure it out. Most everyone could see seven dots, but it was fascinating how some would see a circle around the middle dot, and some would see a diamond, etc. It showed them the different ways people got to the answer of seven, but they all got there. This was an example of how we don’t all learn the same way or see things the same way, and she wants to allow for that in her classrooms and for the students to grow to their full potential.
As far as the COVID-19 situation, they will be doing a lot in the classrooms and at the school to follow the guidelines set down by the school board and still stay within the confines available to them. They will be working hard to do a lot more cleaning by setting a procedure to clean every time a new group will be coming in. The students will wipe down their spaces and any materials they may have needed to use before leaving the classroom. However, most students will be using their own supplies to cut down on any shared school supplies. Mrs. Ray took from her own budget and bought them all the supplies they need so there will be enough for every student. Hand sanitizer will also be available. They are also dividing up the lunch schedule so each class will have 30 minutes for lunch to provide opportunity for more social distancing.
Mrs. Ray also plans on wearing a mask when interacting with the students or being close to them, and plans to be six feet away from them when lecturing. The school is trying to get the teachers microphones so they can be heard when lecturing while wearing masks. This will all help give the students the opportunity of going back to school safely.
Mrs. Ray does think the kids should be going back to school right now, but go back safely. They need to be cautious. Overall, there are so many elements hurting our kids with the COVID-19 situation emotionally, socially, and academically, she says we need to get them back in the classroom; it is vital.
She says, “I’m super excited to be involved, and I love the community and the parents and the kids. I’m grateful for this opportunity and excited to participate and help the kids learn. I love the program we have and the staff. They’re awesome. It’s wonderful to have such great teachers to work with in this community.”