Michaela Fray feels she was born to be an educator.
Both of her parents were longtime educators in the Southeastern School District. Her father, Mike, was a principal, and her mother, Joy, a teacher.
"I don't think there was ever a question of doing anything else except being in education," Fray said. "It's kind of embedded in me."
Fray, an Augusta native, not only was a solid student at Southeastern, but she was also a standout athlete in basketball, volleyball and track.
After graduating from Quincy University in 2006, Fray began teaching fifth grade at Quincy's Baldwin Intermediate School. Then in the fall of 2011, she moved to the Western School District as literacy leader at the junior high school in Kinderhook. A year later, she was named principal of Western's elementary school in Barry. Then this fall she was given the additional responsibility of being junior high principal.
For the past seven summers, Fray and her father have co-coached the Tri-State Express, a traveling girls basketball team featuring some of the area's top players.
Those who nominated Fray for recognition used words like "dedicated, kind, strong, loyal, generous and caring" to describe her.
Fray says she enjoys working with youth and serving as a positive role model both on campus and off.
"As a community, we need to make sure that we're preparing them to be leaders," she said.
Education: Bachelor of science in elementary education (summa cum laude), Quincy University; master of education in elementary/secondary administration (summa cum laude), William Woods University, Fulton, Mo.
Community Involvement: Tri-State Express summer traveling basketball coach; member of Gem City Breakfast Kiwanis Club; attend The Crossing Church; help to coordinate Western elementary and junior high students to become actively involved in the Western community; support Junior Achievement initiative at Western Schools; support and lead educational initiatives at Western Schools.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it? K-8 principal at Western Elementary and Western Junior High School in Barry and Kinderhook. I serve as the K-8 principal, which includes serving as the curriculum leader, collaborating with teachers and staff to provide continued school improvement and professional development, and I serve on all Western School committees and teams to help continue to provide quality educational experiences for all our students. I work with Western families and parents to meet the needs of our students, communicate with the community about exciting happenings at Western and to increase the bridge between our school and communities. I run state reports, attend statewide meetings to bring back innovative and cutting edge, educational reform to Western. I do lunch and recess duty and just about anything and everything in one day. Best part of my job -- my students, no question!
What is a typical work week like? I leave my home in Quincy around 6 a.m., and stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee to give me a boost of energy and to simply enjoy the friendly morning greeting of the staff. I prepare mentally for the day, make any phone calls necessary and take in the beautiful panoramic view as I commute 35 miles to Barry or 30 miles to Kinderhook, depending on if I start my day at Western Elementary or Junior High School. Many days formal and informal meetings fill my minutes before the children arrive. Next, I help to make sure the cafeteria at WES is set-up for our morning assembly or check-in on announcements at WJHS. Greeting my WES and WJHS students and having them all together within their respected school for a common time together is definitely one of the highlights of my day. I am blessed to work with amazing educators and staff who love children! Seeing the children's faces light up when they see the Western staff and teachers is truly heartwarming. WES is filled with lots of hugs, while WJHS is filled with mostly sleepy eyes in the morning. Saying "good morning" and "I'm so glad to see you this morning" is the best. One of the best things about being the K-8 principal at Western is that I know each and every student by name -- yes, all of them. Being able to greet them and welcome them to school while addressing them by name will hopefully get their day started off right. After morning meetings, I make sure to check-in with the building where I am not physically present. These check-ins continue throughout the day -- thank goodness for both administrative assistants, other administration and teachers. I spend the day doing a variety of roles, but keep my students best interest at the center of each and every decision I make and task I work on. Checking in classrooms and witnessing student growth is a highlight in my day. Lunch duty, recess duty. Emails, phone calls, technology requests. You name it. Sometimes I look at the clock and realize it's 4:30 and I haven't used the restroom or had lunch yet. After school is packed with meetings, sports supervision and wrapping up the day. I usually arrive home sometime between 6 and 10 p.m. It may seem like a lot, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Everyone has hectic days and so many people are working hard daily to improve this world. I'm thankful for the children's faces that make this all seem like a breeze.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it? My first job was in the summer during high school. I worked as a summer custodian at my high school. I can remember vividly there was no air conditioning in the building and that it was very hard, hot work. It helped me develop an appreciation for the amount of work that goes in to getting a school ready for students. I also gained a greater respect for my high school building, grounds and custodians. To this day, too many jobs go unnoticed in any profession.
How do you balance everything? It is a challenge, especially when many days I am at work from sunup to sundown. Seeing my students and visiting with them helps me remember why I am an educator. Cheering for them in their classes and extra-curriculum events helps. Having an amazing support system outside of work helps with balance, too -- loyal, caring, fun friends who try to remind me just how important balance is.
Which person has influenced you the most and why? My parents. They are life-long educators, dedicated to helping others. They have spent their lives sacrificing so much to help me, their students, teachers, players, friends and families. I am thankful for their passion and ability to put others first. Their morals, values and life-lessons they have taught me inspire me each day.
Have you ever failed at something? How did you recover? Of course! I make mistakes. I try to always remind myself, the best way to learn and improve is to reflect upon successes and failures. I know I fail and I try to always admit when I have made a mistake, apologize, and move on. Like Michael Jordan said, "I've failed over and over again in my life, that is why I succeed." Failures and mistakes make us stronger.
What does success mean to you? Success to me is simple. Be a positive influence on others. True success is when I get to see my students, teachers, staff, friends and family experience success. Success to me means to live my life as a servant-leader, to try to make others around me better and to learn to be a better person daily from the positive influences and inspirations in my life.
What was your proudest professional moment? I have two. When I received my first teaching job as a fifth grade teacher at Baldwin South School. I was blessed to begin my teaching career working with a tremendous team of educators who became friends. They taught me so much and continue to inspire me. Secondly, receiving my first administrative position as principal at Western Elementary School. Once again, I could not be any more blessed to work with the WES and WJHS teams daily. They are kind, loving and dedicate their lives to their students. They help me become a better educator and person. I am thankful to be on the Western team.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion? Spending time with my friends, who in the past year, I wish I could have spent more time. Retail therapy is always nice. Reading. Taking day trips to the farm.
What is the biggest need in your community? The need for the community and schools to work together. The hope is that schools will provide students with a strong, rigorous/relevant education that will prepare them for a career or college. Also, the need to help young people have a desire to remain in our community, where they will become active citizens and leaders. In turn, our community must continue to provide opportunities and employment that will encourage young people to return after receiving vocational training or college to live in, take pride in and lead our community.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community? Children. Their passion and enthusiasm can inspire anyone. Also, the people I continue to meet who have a vision for what they want our communities to be. The high expectations they hold and the desire to do whatever it takes to help foster a community with a positive and progressive culture.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be? Probably spend more time helping other people and saying thank you more often. Listen to the advice of teachers and parents. Remind myself and others of a Dr. Seuss quote: "Those that matter don't mind and those that mind, don't matter."
If you weren't working for the Western School District, what would you be doing? Working as an educator. I have known I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I spent my childhood playing school with my dolls and stuffed animals. I was raised by two life-long educators, looked up to all my teachers from kindergarten to college. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Working in education at QPS and Western has fulfilled all my dreams. Along the way I have met some of the most amazing people and children. I love my all my students and colleagues, past and present.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? I wish I had more than a few more extra hours. With my heavy schedule, I long for more hours in the day. I would fill them by spending more time with family and friends, relaxing and finishing a few projects around the house, and volunteering more in my community. I most likely would spend some of it working on school projects and tasks, too.
Do you live by any mantra or saying? "Inch by inch life's a cinch, yard by yard, it's really hard." Prioritize. Think positively. Remember, it could always be worse. Follow the Golden Rule, even when life is hard. Life's tough, get a helmet. Say thank you often and tell people how much they mean to you and how much you truly appreciate them. Thank God daily, ask him for strength to make it in this crazy world, and give all praise to him.
Career aspirations aside, name one thing you definitely want to accomplish in your lifetime. Instill in my own family and children the morals, values, lessons and work ethic my parents taught me. Work to ensure all children learn and grow, because all children can learn. To help children/students develop the confidence to know they can be whatever they want to be and they are the leaders of their lives. To help lead a movement where children/students, schools, families, businesses, colleges, and communities work more closely together than ever before to give our children, who are our future, limitless opportunities and experiences to learn, grow, lead, be the best they can be, and give back.