Hoggard High School special needs teacher recognized as ‘Teacher of the Week’

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Wilmington, NC (WWAY) — The coronavirus pandemic has posed a number of challenges for students and teachers during the last eight months.

Students at Hoggard High School in Wilmington have just started their sixth week of in-person learning.

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Emerald Ray has spent lots of time reminding her special needs students about the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and waiting six feet apart.

The person who nominated Ray for WWAY’s ‘Teacher of the Week’ says she’s a wizard at setting up online classes and teaching remotely. Recently, we surprised her as the first ‘Teacher of the Week’ for the 2020-2021 schoolyear.

A UNC Wilmington graduate, Ray says her fifth year of teaching has been the most difficult.

“I’ve just tried to be flexible with what we do and try to figure out how to do it in a remote setting,” Ray said. “We test it out to see what works, what doesn’t and try to learn from it and doing better moving forward.”

She also tries to introduce students to as many life skills as possible like how to work in a coffee shop.

Prior to the pandemic, students in her class ran a coffee shop at the school where they took orders and delivered custom-made drinks to staff.

The pandemic forced them to stop having this level of interaction with others at school but the students continue to set up a coffee-dispensing station in the teacher’s lounge.

“Hopefully, when they leave high school, we try to expose them to all these different job experiences and that way when they leave, they can go to an employer and say I can do all these different things let me show you what I can do,” Ray said.

Since these students require more hands-on educational support, they’re also at risk of being left behind and assistant principal Kristi Brown says this poses a huge challenge for teachers like Ray.

“She’s really broken down things that to us may be easy to learn but for students with disabilities, they may not understand why we have to wear a mask and she’s gone back, she’s modified materials to help teach them some understanding of the pandemic and why we have to do this now,” Brown said.

If you know a teacher doing remarkable things in the classroom, we want to know about it. Go to our website and look for ‘Teacher of the Week’ to send us a nomination. Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card.