Editor's note: This tribute to Ashley Gray is one of two submitted to Patch about this influential teacher. Gray recently announced that he will be leaving South San Francisco High School after 12 years to take a job at Carlmont High School. .
Voting is cool. You know that because Ashley Gray says so. But more importantly, you believe it because he helped you understand why it’s true.
Teaching American Government in itself is no simple task. Succeeding Gene Mullin in that role at South City didn’t make it any easier. But when Mr. Gray took over for a retiring Mullin in 1999, he brought with him a new approach that would inspire students to be better citizens -- and better people.
Grounded in a belief in the ideas espoused by Locke and our Founding Fathers that all persons have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Mr. Gray teaches civic duty through a lens of social justice. In his lessons on civil rights, he highlights the significance of unsung heroes like Vernon Dahmer. He writes songs about John Lewis and the peaceful marchers on Bloody Sunday. He helps students understand what a real democracy looks like and challenges them to do their part.
Mr. Gray’s influence at South City went beyond his own classroom. As department chair, he created a cohesive team intent on maintaining high standards for student achievement and behavior. In addition, Mr. Gray has mentored countless new teachers and graciously opened his classroom to student teachers serving as a model of what it means to inspire young minds. All this he has done with integrity and class; Mr. Gray is the consummate professional.
A highly esteemed colleague, Mr. Gray provided a kind of support that gave respect, dignity, and validation to all teachers, especially when that sentiment seemed to be lacking elsewhere.
If this sounds like an attempt at aggrandizement, it is. That’s because Ashley Gray is a testament to the great things that happen in our district schools. We are filled with a treasure trove of talent in our students, educators, and support staff. His departure, grueling as the decision must have been, is but the latest in a string of losses that have beleaguered the district over the last three years. All those that follow district happenings of late can hypothesize about -- or testify to -- the reasons for the brain drain, but I digress.
One would be remiss to not mention Mr. Gray’s tireless efforts with Sojourn to the Past. For years, Mr. Gray has prepared students for a monumental journey to the American South to follow in the footsteps of some our nation’s greatest citizens. The powerful and emotional trip has opened the eyes of scores of South City youth to the responsibility one has in the great democratic experiment that is America. All this while helping them realize that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things.
As education in California drifts further into the abyss of standardization, teachers as heroes have become an endangered species. Make no doubt about it, Mr. Gray is a hero.
Our district’s loss is Carlmont’s gain. Do they know the gift they have received?
The students that have passed through his room are excited to vote. The colleagues that have seen him teach are inspired to do better. All those that have been touched by his magic will go that much further because he helped us know so much more.