Alumnus of the Month – Mark Ray

Mark has been working in Vancouver Public Schools for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has served as a teacher librarian, instructional technology facilitator, and “Slayer of Information Ignorance (with a Black Belt in Think Kwon Do).” He has taught classes in digital citizenship, research skills, and technology integration and also coaches boys and girls tennis. As an instructional technology facilitator, he has helped lead district initiatives, including a Bring Your Own Device pilot, district planning for a learning management system; and instructional technology training for teacher librarians. Throughout his career, Mark has been an advocate for strong library programs and technology integration. He helped craft the Library Information and Technology Framework and has been active with both the Washington Library Media Association and the Northwest Council for Computer Education in promoting teacher librarianship and 21st century school libraries.

When he’s not at work, he writes for Teacher Librarian as an advocacy columnist and occasionally posts to his blog, Librarian-Provocateur. Currently, he’s co-teaching a University of Washington graduate course on the administration of school library programs. When he’s really not at work, Mark enjoys swing dancing, cruising in his bright blue Mustang, and throwing retro-themed dance parties.

In 2012, Mark’s dedication was honored when he was selected as Washington State Teacher of the Year.

How did your work at the GSE help you reach your professional goals?
I was hired in the fall following the completion of my certificate. I had worked as a graduate assistant in the Metropolitan Instructional Support Laboratory (MISL) and was able to cast a sparkling illusion of technological prowess. I was actually hired by the same district that I grew up in and in which my father and mother both worked. I came out of PSU having (perhaps unjustified) confidence in what I could do. It took me a few years to realize that I didn’t really know as much as I thought I did. That’s less the fault of PSU than my youthful exuberance. Knowledge is quick. Wisdom takes time.

What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
I recall the irreverence of Ken Peterson. He told me that I didn’t have to worry about being a great teacher until my third year of teaching. These days, that advice wouldn’t get you past your first interview. But back then, it did two things— it took a small amount of pressure off as I embarked on a new career at the same time it set my meter running toward being a great teacher. He and others gave me both the permission to fail and more importantly, the permission to lead and excel.

What is the accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of?
Being the 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year is less about me and more about a validation of the importance of powerful school library programs, teacher librarians and the role of educational technology in student learning. It may sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, but this is a win for all teacher librarians, library media specialists and school librarians. I’ve enjoyed an amazing career to date and again, as fawning as it may sound, it all began at PSU.

The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni, what does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
I have no idea. But seriously…

Much of my certification work was imbued with a focus on the political and social context of teaching. Frankly, at the time I found that to be a bit annoying. But I’ve learned that education is unavoidably political and that teaching is a revolutionary act. And the work we do as teachers regularly transcends pedagogy into areas of social welfare, justice, ethics, values and citizenship. Teachers must confront the reality that we are impactful whether we realize it or not. I only hope that my impact on students, school district, and my community is a positive one.

How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
I do everything in my power to be able to say ‘yes.’

Did you have a favorite course/professor/project while at the GSE?
I actually used a few Ken Peterson one liners in my interviews for state teacher of the year. And despite that, I was chosen!

Seriously, my course in Young Adult Literature with Paul Gregorio changed the trajectory of my studies and ultimately, my career. I decided I liked Chocolate War better than Chaucer and became a teacher librarian instead of an English teacher. As Frost wrote, “that has made all the difference.”

What advice would you give students currently enrolled or recently graduated?
Don’t feel like you have to teach the same way that you were taught. Tradition is great for football, Thanksgiving and major religions. Brand education won’t survive on tradition. We need teachers to think different and be willing to meet, teach and understand kids where they are, not where we think they should be. Take chances. Teach boldly. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

2 thoughts on “Alumnus of the Month – Mark Ray

  1. Awesome interview – thanks to the GSE marketing staff for putting it together and to Mark Ray for sharing his humor-induced enthusiasm and wisdom.

  2. Mark Ray was a talent the day he joined our program. In many ways he showed the strengths and humaneness of GSE, GTEP students–the reasons I chose to come to PSU in 1987. In other ways, and talents, he is a unique force of life. Mark energized our program, thought differently, did us proud, made me laugh, took chances, and continues to shine for our young people and his fellow teachers. His excellence, and that of other graduates, makes it possible for me to Retire In Peace. Thank you Mark!

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