INFLUENCER OF THE WEEK: Melissa Gray, Panther Lake Elementary School

Melissa Gray is the curriculum resource teacher at Panther Lake Elementary School.

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Melissa Gray is the curriculum resource teacher at Panther Lake Elementary School. Her job duties include testing coordinator, field trip coordinator, teacher and student awards, social media/newsletter/website manager, and textbook manager, and she serves as the contact for the spelling bee and speech contest. She was named an Orange County Public Schools Hero Teacher while working at Edgewater High School. She has been a part of OCPS for 20 years. “While Ms. Gray is not one of our classroom teachers, she is someone (who) is consistently behind the scenes making sure our teachers and students have what they need to be successful each day,” Principal Christine Szymanski said. “She delivers professional development, coordinates state and district testing, helps teachers with data analysis, mentors beginning teachers, and organizes school competitions and events.”

What brought you to your school? 

I was invited by our principal, Dr. Christine Szymanski, to open Panther Lake Elementary School for its inaugural year. I previously worked with Dr. Szymanski at Ocoee Middle School years ago.

What do you love most about your school? 

I love all the parent and community support that our school receives as it only provides more support for our students throughout the school year. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 

The most rewarding part of my job is working with teachers to ensure that they are successful in their classrooms and in turn our students are successful.

What would you be if you weren’t in this profession?  

If I were not in education, I would love to be a flight attendant and travel the world.

Who influences you?  

My former students have influenced me to continue to grow as an educator. I have worked in elementary, middle and high school, and I have enjoyed the educational process at all three levels.

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why? 

My favorite teacher was in high school named Mrs. Richardson. She taught physical education for individual and team sports but included health and nutrition into all of her lessons.

What is your favorite children’s book and why? 

“Miss Nelson Is Missing,” because this book provides humor while being an amazing picture book.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I like to go to Disney with my family.

If you could dine with any famous person, past or present, who would it be and why? 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because I would love to hear about the evolution of her career and the impact she had made for women.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? 

I would love to have the superpower to travel back in time.

If you could only listen to three bands or artists, who would they be? 

Boys II Men, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles.

What was your go-to lunch and favorite snack as an elementary student? 

A Thermos with either soup or spaghetti inside that my mom made for me.  

What is your favorite holiday and why? 

My favorite holiday is Christmas — I love all of the holiday cheer and celebrating with my immediate and extended family.

Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch? 

My best friend during middle and high school was Kim D. We were instantly friends from middle school when I started sixth grade in a new school district. We are still in touch today and text frequently as she still lives in Cleveland, Ohio. 

What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors? 

When I was in high school, I played basketball all four years and was in the marching band for three years.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.