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Former Student Returns to Memphis School as Innovative Learning Coach

In the historic halls of Booker T. Washington (BTW) Middle and High School in Memphis, JaQuisha Gray found her calling. As a student, she felt cherished and inspired by her teachers who instilled in her a belief in her potential. “The teachers nurtured me. They demonstrated that I could be exceptional,” Gray recalls. This nurturing environment led Gray to pursue a career in education. After earning a B.A. in anthropology in 2015, she returned to BTW as an educator, and later became a Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach — roles that allowed her to pass on the inspiration she received at BTW to the next generation.

“I want to assure [students] that they can achieve success. Your background should not be a barrier,” Gray asserts. “It was not a barrier for me, so it should not be for you either.”

BTW, founded in 1873, is a historic institution as the first public high school for Black students in Memphis. The school gained national recognition in 2011 when President Obama delivered the commencement address after BTW won the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, which saw a significant increase in graduation rates. Despite being located in the poorest zip code in Memphis, BTW continues to inspire and uplift its students.

Gray’s connection to BTW is deeply rooted. “My great-grandmother graduated from BTW in 1943,” she shares, followed by her grandmother in the ’60s and her mother in the ’80s. “My sisters and I are continuing this tradition by sending our children here,” Gray adds.

In her role as a Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach, and currently as an instructional facilitator, Gray guides BTW teachers on how to incorporate new technology into their classrooms to enhance academic performance. “I enjoy teaching teachers how to engage our students with technology,” Gray states. She also leveraged free micro-credentials through professional development courses available on Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. The “Transformative Technology” micro-credential, Gray elaborates, “taught me how to revise lessons, how to model lessons in the classroom, how to observe my teachers in a different light, to provide feedback so that I could help my teachers grow.”

Gray’s dedication to professional development, a key aspect of being a self-accreditation education provider, is evident throughout the school community. “Ms. Gray is a living example of growth and development,” says Paige Stubbs, assistant principal at BTW. Stubbs notes that Gray shares the knowledge she gained from the professional development she obtained from Verizon Innovative Learning with her fellow educators. “She absorbs information and puts it into action,” Stubbs says.

By consistently seeking new knowledge, Gray helps propel the entire school community forward. “It’s crucial to keep learning and evolving because the world never stays the same. As a teacher, a coach, or an individual: the world will change. You can either adapt or be left behind,” Gray asserts. “So when these new opportunities arise, these new methods to improve and grow our students, seize them.”

For free learning apps, lesson plans, and professional development courses aligned with micro-credentials, visit Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. For more insights on how to get CPD accredited and the cost of accreditation, as well as the benefits of digital CPD certificates, stay tuned to our platform.

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