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UMPI presents Brittany Ray as next Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Maine at Presque Isle will present Brittany Ray, the Director of TREE: Transforming Rural Experience in Education and the 2007 Maine Teacher of the Year, as the next speaker in its 2018-2019 Distinguished Lecturer Series. The theme for this year’s series is In Their Shoes. Ray will speak on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. During her talk, titled Creating Trauma-Informed Schools and Communities by Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences, Ray will discuss how people can work together to create environments that foster healing and help students to grow. This talk, supported in part by UMPI’s TRIO Student Support Services, is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

During her visit, Ray will also present several workshops for UMPI faculty, Education students, local teachers, and educational technicians. Local educators interested in attending workshops on March 7 or 8—which will provide a more comprehensive look at Adverse Childhood Experiences and how to address them in the classroom—should contact Scott Harrison with the Central Aroostook Council on Education at 207-592-0223 or scott.harrison@maine.edu, or register online at https://cacepartnership.org/events/.

According to Ray, understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how they impact behavior and learning is key to creating trauma-informed, resilience-focused schools. Becoming trauma informed, she explained, is not simply a training but a true mindset shift that requires policy changes on many levels. Ray’s presentation serves as the starting point for any teachers, schools, parents, or community members interested in creating and supporting more trauma-informed school cultures. Participants will learn about ACEs and the corresponding policy changes most needed in schools and communities in order for students to thrive.

What we know from ACEs is that a trauma informed approach is needed in schools and that, without acknowledging and responding to the impact adversity has on developing brains and on social and emotional development, we will never close the achievement gap,” Ray said. “TREE is committed to ensuring that all people learn more about ACEs and promotes working together to create environments that foster healing and resilience in our schools.”

Born and raised in Washington County, Ray graduated from Narraguagus High School in 1989 and attended Colby College, where she majored in English and minored in Education. In 1993, she graduated as Colby’s valedictorian and class marshal. She then returned to Washington County to pursue her passion for education, teaching English at Machias Memorial High School. In 1995, she had the opportunity to return to her former high school to teach English, where she remained as a teacher and English Department Chair for 11 years.

In 2007, Ray was named Maine Teacher of the Year, becoming the first teacher to represent Washington County in more than 25 years. This same year, Ray transitioned from the classroom to administration, becoming Narraguagus High School’s Guidance Director/School Counselor. In 2009, Ray received her Master of Science degree in School Counseling from Husson University.

Her experiences in the classroom and in school counseling fueled her passion for building relationships and developing strategies to help mitigate poverty-related barriers for her students. In her time as school counselor, she wrote, obtained, and administered various grants linked to assisting students living in poverty. In January 2016, Ray learned about a new initiative called TREE: Transforming Rural Experience in Education and said she knew it could be the key to helping those students experiencing the most adversity. She is now the Director of TREE, a division of the Cobscook Community Learning Center. TREE seeks to support schools and teachers in better understanding the impact of “toxic stress” on children and how adverse childhood experiences impact learning and behavior.

Ray resides in Milbridge, Maine, with her husband, Ron Smith, and is the mother of four children.

The University’s Distinguished Lecturer Series was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

All are invited to attend Brittany Ray’s lecture on March 7. Certificates of attendance will be available at the door for those who may need one. For more information about this event, contact the University’s Community and Media Relations Office at 207-768-9452 or email umpi@maine.edu.