CONYERS — A former Rockdale County educator now living and working in Orangeburg, S.C., was recently honored by the Orangeburg County Community of Character (OCCOC) initiative for making masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Teri Gray is a math interventionist at Edisto Primary School in the Orangeburg County School District. Helping students with addition and subtraction is not where her work ends.
Gray also found time over spring break to make more than 100 masks for the school district’s kitchen staff amid the coronavirus pandemic. She has also made masks for her school’s second-grade teachers and their families, and makes and delivers masks for others in need, including a family impacted by cancer.
It is her ability to act independently to perform important duties with the incorporation of selfless decision-making that led the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative to honor her for her responsibility.
Gray and her family moved to Conyers when she was in the third grade, and she graduated from Rockdale County High School in 1977. She attended Georgia State University and graduated in 1981 with an education degree.
She was the service director at the Rockdale County Boys Club and taught at C.J. Hicks Elementary in Conyers until 1997, when she and her family moved to South Carolina. Her brother still lives in Conyers and her mother and sister live in Covington.
Gray was featured in an article by Dionne Gleaton of The Times and Democrat newspaper in Orangeburg for her honor.
In the article, Gray attributes the trait of responsibility to her parents, who worked to instill good character in her and her two siblings.
“It’s definitely my parents. My mom — Doris Upton — was a nurse, and then she was also the social services director of the county where we lived in Georgia. So she was constantly putting food baskets together at Christmastime and collecting coats. We were always involved in that, helping her to help the community... We just try to help whoever we can,” she said.
She said it is important to take responsibility for those people and causes that are dear to her.
“This is ending up my 32nd year both in Georgia and in South Carolina in public and private schools. In being a teacher, you have an innate responsibility for the children that you teach and for the whole school community, just being part of that family,” Gray said.
“If you see something that needs to be done, you pick it up and go with it. You don’t wait to be asked to do something. I guess with the maturity of years teaching and being around several different school situations, you just kind of learn to see there’s a need and do what’s needed to be done,” she said.
She and her husband, Allen, owner of B&B Porta-Jons, are the parents of one son, Chandler.
“As a family and each week since I’ve been out of school, we’ve found a group like the city police officers and the sheriff’s department and some doctor’s offices and taken lunch to them,” she said. “We’ve also been able to support some of the local restaurants who are struggling by supporting them, too.
“So we’re trying to make a family issue of helping those who are struggling right now. It kind of gives you a sense of accomplishment when you’re able to help someone else. You’re not trying to get anything for it, just being helpful. So hopefully we can instill that in our son also.”