Professional Development 'Pushed My Career in Ways I Never Imagined'

Leveraging free micro-credentials, JaQuisha Gray empowers tech-savvy educators and students at Booker T. Washington.
Nov 8, 2023 3:45 PM ET

JaQuisha Gray (third from left) stands with Booker T. Washington students (from left) Tamiya Scott, Melissa Perez and Carlajah Banks, who are members of Gray’s tech team.

As a student at the historic Booker T. Washington (BTW) Middle and High School in Memphis, JaQuisha Gray felt loved and supported by her teachers. “The teachers poured into me. They showed me that I could be great,” Gray says.

In part because of that support, Gray became a teacher herself. In 2015, after earning a B.A. in anthropology, she returned to BTW as an educator, and later a Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach — roles in which she aspired to pay forward her experience at her alma mater by inspiring a new generation.

“I want to let [students] know you can be successful. It does not matter about your background,” Gray says. “It didn’t matter for me, so it shouldn’t matter for you.”

Founded in 1873, BTW was the first public high school for Black students in Memphis. In 2011, President Obama delivered the commencement address at BTW, after the school won the national Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, during which graduation rates dramatically increased. The school is also located in the poorest zip code in Memphis.

Gray’s own history at BTW runs deep. “My great-grandmother actually graduated from BTW in 1943,” she says, as did her grandmother in the ‘60s and mother in the ‘80s. “We all have children, me and my sisters, and we're sending our kids here,” Gray adds.

As a Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach, and current instructional facilitator, Gray helps BTW teachers integrate new technology into their classrooms in order to improve academics. “I love teaching teachers how to get our students involved and engaged with technology,” Gray says.

She also took advantage of free micro-credentials through professional development courses available on Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. The “Transformative Technology” micro-credential, Gray explains, “taught me how to edit lessons, how to go into the classroom and model lessons, how to observe my teachers in a different light, to provide feedback so that I could grow my teachers.”

Gray’s commitment to professional development is apparent around the school community. “Ms. Gray is the walking embodiment of growth and development,” says Paige Stubbs, assistant principal at BTW, noting that Gray shares the knowledge learned from the professional development she acquired from Verizon Innovative Learning with her colleagues. “She takes information and she runs with it,” Stubbs says.

By continually gleaning new knowledge, Gray helps the entire school community move ahead. “It's important to continue learning and growing because this world never stays the same as a teacher, as a coach, as a person: the world will change. So either you change with it or you get left behind,” Gray says. “And so when we're introduced to these new opportunities, these new ways to get better, new ways to grow our kids, take advantage of it.”

To access free learning apps, lesson plans and professional development courses aligned to micro-credentials, visit Verizon Innovative Learning HQ.

“I love teaching teachers how to get our students involved and engaged with technology.”

JaQuisha Gray, Instructional Facilitator at Booker T. Washington Middle and High School