Becky Gracey grew up in Ann Arbor and attended Lawton Elementary, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer High School. While she was in Marlene Milazzo’s first grade class, she decided she wanted to be a teacher. After earning her degree at Western Michigan University, Gracey headed back to Ann Arbor to student teach at Logan, where she later got her first teaching position. She taught at Logan for three years, followed by Northside for three years, and Pattengill for six. Gracey has been teaching at King for 11 years now.
The Ann Arbor resident and her husband, Mark, have two teenaged children, Garrison (a senior at Skyline) and Madie (a junior at Community). They have one dog, Chip, a black lab mix.
Gracey is a fan of Michigan football can be found at the Big House every home game. She also loves to travel, especially in her second home: a pull-behind camper. She has toured the entire coastlines of the lower and Upper Peninsula the last few years along with a trip to Europe to visit friends. Gracey also loves listening to music, swimming, watching her son in the Skyline Marching Band, and watching her daughter play volleyball.
What are your favorite memories of fifth grade? My favorite memory of fifth grade was the winter survival field trip we took. I had been camping every summer and was certain that I could build and light a fire with ease, which I ensured my friend with a little more confidence than I should have. When it was time to light the match to start the fire I had built, it would not light. I ended up going through a whole box of matches while my friend sat back with a smile on her face. I’m sure that we ate at some point, but I never lived it down.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? My report cards in elementary school always said that I was quiet and shy. A far cry from the talker that I grew up to be. No one who didn’t know me then believes me when I tell them this.
What inspired you to become a teacher? My first grade teacher at Lawton, Mrs. Marlene Milazzo, inspired me to be a teacher. She was so kind and I wanted to be just like her. I student-taught in a first-grade classroom, but after a year teaching kindergarten, I was moved to a fourth grade class. That’s when I realized that I love teaching the older of the elementary grades.
In your 23 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing I have learned is how much I love to learn. I learn from my students, other staff, and from others outside the district. I am always looking for new strategies to use in my classroom. When my former students come back to visit me, they always comment on how many things are different in the classroom. Recently I have been focusing on learning—and teaching others—about assessment.
Describe an average workday. An average workday for me starts off with me getting up early to get to school and get a jumpstart on planning, grading, etc. I work best in the mornings when it is quiet and my mind is fresh. When the bell rings, I greet my class at the door and welcome them to the school day. After they finish bellwork, we have a class meeting to get our day started. Most mornings we don’t have a break, so we generally get through the literacy block and most of math. My students have a lot of choice in my classroom and I work hard to support them academically as well as with their social and emotional needs. My lunchtime is spent sitting down with my fifth grade colleagues eating lunch, sharing our days, and doing a little planning. Monday and Wednesday afternoons are times when we have large blocks of shared planning time, so we have additional planning time together. The afternoons are shorter than the mornings, so I generally teach science, social studies, and health at this time. I end the day with my students with a closing circle. We reflect on our day and say goodbye. I then stand at the door and say goodbye to each student as they leave. I don’t usually stay too long after school because I am eager to get home to spend time with my family.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? The advice I would give to a first-year teacher is to talk to other teachers, visit their rooms, and learn as much as they can from others. I would also encourage them to share their expertise as much as they can.
Favorite websites: I really enjoy Facebook because I like that I can connect with family and friends that I don’t get to see very often.
Apps you can’t live without: While camping in remote areas of the Upper Peninsula this summer, I learned how important the Weather Channel app is to me. It’s difficult to plan your days without knowing the weather.
Three favorite devices: My favorite devices are my only devices: my iPhone and my laptop.
How do you stay organized? I stay organized by planning ahead, making lists, and keeping everything in its place. When people have to use adjectives to describe me, the word “organized” comes up a lot.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager? My favorite to-do list manager is my little blue notebook and a pencil.
What is unique about teaching at King? King is a very special place to work because of the people. I work with an amazing staff. They are supportive and we like to have fun together. My students and families are also great to work with.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding thing about teaching is watching my fifth graders become independent thinkers. I love watching them learn and grow and become more confident in themselves. I love seeing former students and hearing about their successes.
What has surprised you most about the profession? The thing that has surprised me the most about the teaching profession is the openness of other teachers to share and work together. It really is a supportive environment. I love walking into other teachers’ classrooms and asking them about what I see. I also enjoy the opportunity to work and learn from teachers in my building during the assessment training that I lead.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish everyone realized that the work of a teacher is difficult and time-consuming. The extra work hours that teachers put in before school, during lunch, after school, and at their homes in the evenings and on the weekends is tremendous and necessary to do all that we do for our students, families, and the community.
How do you recharge? I recharge by spending time with my family and traveling. Our trip to Cedar Point after school was out last spring was a great way to start the summer and our trip to the Upper Peninsula was very relaxing.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting thing about my professional life right now is my ability to empower my students to take a stronger part in their education. The new furniture we have this school year is allowing me to give my students even more choice. My assessment training is supporting my work with students to set goals for themselves and reflect on their growth.
The most exciting thing about my personal life is having two teenagers who are starting to think about college and their future. I have loved watching them grow into intelligent, responsible, kind young adults and I am excited to see what their future holds.