John Gray has been drawing since he was a little boy, and for the past thirty-two years he has been teaching art at Smylie Wilson Junior High. That's where we met up with Gray, and after entering his classroom you quickly notice that there are animals, art projects, and collectibles decorating the walls. It's what makes the atmosphere in Gray's classroom unique.
"I have been collecting objects around the room, a still life shall we say, for the past thirty-two years. They're personal items or friends bring me items, sometimes students bring these to me. We use these as drawing aides for the classes and as a visual stimulation." says Gray, and he hopes that the stimulation will become an escape for students when they step inside his classroom. "They get to leave teenage baggage behind, and come in and get to be their selves, and work with colors and patterns and shapes, and work with your friends and share with them, and come to a cool room." states Gray, "The more stimulating that room is for them the better they will function while they are in here. And, maybe carry a piece of me, and a piece of my room with them out into the world with them."
As well as being encouraging to his students Gray has learned sign language to community with some of his deaf students like Christopher Hernandez. "He is good with the interpreter, and if the interpreter is absent he knows a little bit of sign language, and he can interpret. So he has had lots of deaf students in his class before." Said Hernandez. Gray plans to stay and teach at Smylie Wilson for some time.