Satisfy the Chicago educator who is a finalist for Illinois Teacher of the Year

A gaggle of fifth graders – customers of a rock band at Franklin High-quality Arts Heart – buzzed with strength as they walked into a next ground classroom keeping a substantial hand-drawn banner. Its message: “Congratulations, Mrs. Gray!”

Magnus Grey, a to start with grader at the Near North Aspect School, adopted shortly following with a handwritten note on an 8×10 sheet of paper: “Congratulations Mommy.”

The moment late past 7 days introduced veteran songs teacher Anne Gray to tears, she later on recounted to Chalkbeat.

The Chicago General public Educational institutions instructor of additional than two a long time was amid 13 finalists for Illinois Instructor of the Year declared on Thursday. Every year, the Point out Board of Education awards educators across the state who are producing long lasting impacts on their college communities.

“I’m in shock,” Gray informed Chalkbeat. “I’m just touched, and honored, and grateful. I’m enthusiastic for my learners and the plan to be recognized.”

A woman sits in her classroom surrounded by a drum set, electric guitars, and acoustic guitars.

Franklin Wonderful Arts Center audio teacher Anne Gray was between the 13 finalists for Illinois Trainer of the 12 months.

Mauricio Peña / Chalkbeat

Gray joins other educators throughout the point out recognized for their determination to educating together with Madeline Woods of United Local community University District No. 304 Briana Morales of East St. Louis School District 189 Eugene Calingacion of Freeport School District 145 and Amber Jirsa of Batavia PSD 101.

The state also honored almost 500 educators for their contributions to education across the point out. 

Gray is continue to processing the honor, but reported it felt validating, specially right after the previous handful of many years marked by pandemic disruptions.

For the final 18 years, Grey has taught tunes courses to kindergarten to eighth quality students at Franklin Good Arts Middle, a magnet faculty on Chicago’s North Facet. All through that time, she’s expanded her classes beyond classic choir courses, educating learners how to engage in ukuleles and guitars, and presently overseeing five unique rock bands at Franklin. 

Gray believes all learners have musical skills and that her role is to spark their interests, in accordance to a push release. She recognized early on that her learners weren’t fascinated in European classics, so she took summertime courses to understand how to educate blues, samba, jazz, and rock. 

Gray’s really like for audio and dedication to her students caught the attention of colleagues who nominated her. 

Each and every college student justifies a trainer like Grey, drama instructor Betsy Williams reported in a push statement: “Someone who will train them the expertise to obtain their own skills and then cheer from the viewers when they share that expertise with the earth.” ​

The Franklin household was extremely very pleased of Grey and her dedication to establishing youthful artists and educating literacy through music, Principal Liz Wontor-Leach mentioned. 

“It’s no shock to us that Mrs. Gray is getting this,” Wontor-Leach mentioned. “We’ve normally known she’s amazing.”

Above the decades, Wontor-Leach mentioned, Grey has aided set with each other occasions and live shows. She also will work to make sure there aren’t scheduling conflicts and all good arts have time during the working day and “all young children have obtain,” she extra.

The faculty also experienced a few “conferences” with the Office of Good Arts and gave opinions at a district degree. It’s great to see her interacting and influencing good modify outside the house of Franklin, Wontor-Leach claimed.

“Her affect goes outside of Franklin,” she said.

Students practice ukulele in pairs inside Franklin Fine Arts Centers on Chicago’s North Side.

Learners in Anne Gray’s fourth quality ukulele course pair up to follow a chord development at Franklin Great Arts Center on Chicago’s North Aspect.

Mauricio Peña / Chalkbeat

Gray believes the Teacher of the Year honor is even further evidence that steady art programming is critical for students’ social and emotional discovering and is wanted in each individual college. 

“I hope some principals can see what can be performed if songs teachers have typical entry to their pupils,” she said.

Inside Gray’s next ground classroom Thursday, she pulled baritone ukuleles mounted on the wall and tuned them just before handing them one particular by a single to her fourth grade college students.

She then invited college students to warm up for a several minutes in advance of guiding them by way of the hand placements. 

“Make sure you are in the third fret,” Gray stated in a sing-song voice. “Looking great! Extremely wonderful hand difference.” 

Pupils strummed a G chord as she walked all-around, before inquiring them to transition to an E insignificant chord. “Make absolutely sure your elbow is a little little bit in — a good curve, a pleasant C-form,” she reported.

Music teacher Anne Gray leans over to the help her student with hand placement on a ukulele.

Tunes teacher Anne Grey can help her student with hand placement on a ukulele just before the class procedures with each other.

Mauricio Peña / Chalkbeat

Her learners watched as she steered them via the chord development, before they attempted actively playing Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”

Gray chosen a contemporary music that college students know mainly because they’ll quickly decide on up the chords, she mentioned. But she frequently surveys learners to see what songs they like. 

“Do we experience great heading proper away into eight strums?” she questioned the fourth graders seated in a row of chairs with ukuleles in hand.

“Yes,” the college students reported.

“OK,” she responded, keeping a ukulele and prepared to perform together with her pupils. “Let’s consider it.” 

Samantha Smylie contributed to this report. 

Mauricio Peña is a reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering K-12 educational facilities. Get in touch with Mauricio at [email protected].

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