Gary Gray on Retirement and Teaching Math

June 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Gary Gray, math faculty at Idyllwild Arts Academy since 1993, is retiring from full-time teaching at the end of this year. Gary has been connected to Idyllwild Arts since the 1970s through his friendship with past president and founding head Bill Lowman. In the 1980s, Gary attended Summer Program workshops and taught a Wilderness Photography course in 1987.

Gary at the whiteboard

Gary’s professional teaching career began at the age of 40. While a college student he had taken many math and science classes so he was prepared when he went back to school and took graduate classes in math & education. Prior to coming to Idyllwild Arts he taught  at Coachella Valley High School for four years and one year in the Palm Springs Unified School District. With five years under his belt Gary came to Idyllwild Arts and joined the Math/Science Department.

Gary’s focus and core reason to become a teacher was the opportunity to teach students critical thinking. “I wanted them learn to make their own decisions and how to go through the process.” As an avid horseman, Gary shared an analogy to how he approaches teaching. “In horsemanship, I’ve learned about thinking like a horse. When you’re working with a horse if they can’t understand what you want from them how can they possibly do it? The same thing relates to a student. It they don’t understand a problem or process they can’t possibly do the work. I’m always pushing the students to understand for themselves. I’ve always tried to look at what is the student’s point of view.”

Gary working with students in the classroom

Gary said that there’s never been a single student that came here to take a “Gary Gray math class”. He views education as a collaboration between the student and teacher. He said “I’m still managing them but I’m working with them. I want them to succeed and experience success but maintain the rigor and integrity of the curriculum.”

This year, Gary has been honored by the 2012 Senior Class and asked to speak on the topic of “Art and Technology” at their Baccalaureate Ceremony. Gary said that for his speech he plans to turn the podium and address the students directly; not make it towards the audience, which is usually the tradition, but to speak directly to those students that have sat in his classroom.

Gary will continue to teach one class next year at Idyllwild Arts and also mentor the new faculty and Math & Science chairs. He wants to be part of the transition that helps to sustain a vibrant program that he developed with the late Jerry McCampbell. “I’ll be in the classroom doing what I love and using my skills to the betterment of the students.”

Gary has many other projects in the works. He’ll be teaching a “Tracking and Nature Observation” at the Nature Center in Idyllwild and possibly at the Living Desert in the fall. He also plans on collaborating on his third book project.

In all, Gary states “the experience of working with the great students and faculty is the highlight of my career at Idyllwild Arts. It’s all about the community at Idyllwild Arts that makes it so special.”

Entry filed under: Academics, News. Tags: , , , , .

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