Education and Work Center (EWC) Transitions Coordinator Peter Gray seeks to make meaningful connections with people through the intercultural communication skills he’s acquired along his educational and professional journey.
Gray, who is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages (M.A. in TESOL), has spent a good deal of his life immersed in Hispanic cultures — living in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic as a Rotary International exchange student while he was a teenager and later studying in Madrid, Spain during college.
A capstone research project during his undergrad program prompted him to return to Spain to investigate poet, playwright and theatre director Federico Garcia Lorca's ties to the province of Andalucía, and how harsh realities in rural Spain informed his poems and plays. Gray chronicled his findings in a feature-length documentary titled Lorca and the Telluric Identity.
“Documentary filmmaking can breathe life into history books, and I found it easier to share my research with peers using a visual medium,” he said. “This project-based learning experience was a formative one for me, and helped me further hone the intercultural communication skills I use today to serve ECC and Harper College students [through the EWC].”
Gray’s passion and global perspective led him to the EWC, where he is part of a team that provides adult education classes to the residents of Hanover Park and surrounding communities. He facilitates student placement, assessment and student data management.
“Because I work second shift, I get to know our evening students well, and I consider myself a partner in their learning process. The best part of my job is witnessing them develop newly acquired language skills.”
Gray also enjoys celebrating high school equivalency students' success, and regularly attends the annual graduation ceremony (as pictured, above).
We caught up with Gray to learn more about his life and his work at ECC. Here is what he had to say.
What’s something about your job that others should know?
In the short time it has been open, the Education and Work Center (EWC) has served students from almost every continent, and our student population is becoming increasingly diverse each semester. Our proximity to O'Hare Airport puts us in a unique position to serve English learners who arrive from other countries. Civic leaders in Hanover Park began calling their town "America's Global Village" this year. If you stop by for a visit, you can plant a small flag on our world map to mark where you (or your ancestors) hail from. Stop by sometime and say hello.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I’m grateful for the professional growth opportunities that my employment contract affords me, and my colleagues and supervisor have been supportive as I pursue a Master of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages (M.A. in TESOL); I expect finish next year (fall ‘19).
What was your first job out of school?
In college, I waited tables and worked as a karaoke DJ for weddings and bars. After college, I took a job as a forklift driver at a Caterpillar factory, then worked at a local television station.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I'd like to write and illustrate a children’s book someday. I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss, and have been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I think that’d be a fun project.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work (i.e. hobbies/interests)?
I read and listen to a lot of audiobooks. I've got a kayak that I occasionally put in the Fox River and do quite a bit of camping. I've been collecting records (LPs) since I was 15, so my turntable is usually running when I'm home. I've dabbled in digital cinematography for a number of years, and I shot an independent feature film in 2010. It was written and directed by a former professor of mine at Illinois Wesleyan University, Thomas Anthony Quinn. Tom is the youngest brother of actor Terry O’Quinn (of “Lost” fame).
What’s one fact we should know about you?
I’m a proud Millennial, and my worldview has been deeply impacted by my travels outside of the United States. If you’re curious about that, feel free to ask me sometime.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
"Get busy living or get busy dying." —Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Redemption
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I am frequently reminded that teachers are students and students are teachers.