With school ending last week, Michael Ray is retiring after 33 years as a teacher – nine years in Effingham County and the last 24 years in Bulloch County. In fact, he has been teaching at Southeast Bulloch High School for the past 23 years.
Raised in Camden County, S.C., where his mom Idell still lives, Ray attended Georgia Southern College where he fondly remembers taking numerous classes with Professors Dan Good (Geography), Harris Mobley (Anthropology), and Charlton Moseley (History).
His wife, Ann, has worked at the local JCPenney for some 17 years. Their son, Michael, has a computer business in Clearwater, Fla. Ray started teaching in 1977, when he was hired at Effingham County High School.
After he had worked their several years, Gene Eden got a job teaching at Effingham as well. In no time at all, the two men began riding together to and from the school. As such, a life-long friendship was formed.
About Ray Eden said: “Mike Ray has forgotten more about teaching than I ever managed to learn. He is the most dedicated, creative and interesting teacher I have known in many years. In fact, when students learned he was going to retire, they began lining up in my office trying to take his classes early.”
Ray remembers being hired by Tom Bigwood, principal at SEB in 1987, to teach at and then “close the old Brooklet Junior High School.”
Former student Statesboro High School Principal Dr. Marty Waters said "I remember him (Mr. Ray) pacing the room telling a story while tapping a yard stick like a cane. Just as the class was engrossed in note-taking, he would smack a desk enough to make you jump about six feet."
Waters continued, "He taught me Georgia History in 8th Grade and AP US History in 11th grade. Almost every teacher went into education because of the impact of a former teacher ... Michael Ray and Glenda Reddick were my influences.
Actually, while the eighth graders moved “up” to the high school, the seventh graders moved “down” to three elementary schools. Ray remembers that first year well: "I taught a class of eighth graders Georgia History, a class of ninth graders World Geography, and a class of Advanced Placement American History – only the second year it was taught at SEB.”
Now, some twenty four years later, Ray proudly states that he never had anything less than glowing evaluations by his peers. In addition, he was selected Star Teacher seven times over three decades, and was selected as Teacher of the Year during 1994-95.
Asked about his thoughts on the state of public education after one-third of a century in the classroom, Ray said: “When money gets tight, Boards of Education cut teachers salaries, freeze any bonuses they might have expected, and then require them to do even more with even less. It's just not right.”