Making an immediate impact: Alex Jay completes first year at Lanett

Published 8:00 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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Whether it was to her stuffed animals after school or to other students in the classroom, Alex Jay has been a teacher since she was in elementary school.

Jay was like most children growing up — she didn’t like going to school, but that didn’t stop her from putting her stuffed animals in a makeshift classroom in her basement and teaching them for hours.

Even though she was teaching her stuffed animals for years, she really decided on becoming a teacher when she met her best friend, Omead, who has autism, in fifth grade.

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“I would help him with his work and spend a lot of time with him, so I guess that’s really how it developed,” Jay said. “I just told my mom that I want to teach kids like Omead, and she explained what a special ed teacher was.”

Jay stayed with that dream of being a special ed teacher and graduated from Auburn in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in collaborative special education.

She started her teaching career at Beauregard Elementary School, where she taught for a year before spending a year as a teacher at Berta Weathersbee Elementary School in LaGrange, Georgia.

During her time at Berta Weathersbee, she made the decision to go back to Auburn for her master’s degree in collaborative special education with a focus on behavior, which she finished in May, and she got an email from Lanett Director of Special Education Christy Carpenter asking if she would want to interview for a position at Lanett.

She interviewed with Lanett Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Boyd, who was the high school principal at that time, Lanett Junior High Principal Donna Bell and Carpenter. She knew then that Lanett is where she wanted to be.

“It was the small-town type of community vibe. I’ve always wanted to pour into a community and not just a classroom,” Jay said. “I just saw how the school came together. I talked to four people before I left the interview, and everyone was just really nice and welcoming.”

Even though it is her first year at Lanett, Jay can be found everywhere in the school. Alongside teaching two of her own classes, she is always around Lanett athletics.

“I think that’s a great way to build relationships with kids,” Jay said.

“If you can ask them about something other than academics, then they’re a lot more willing to open up to you. Then, when you have to ask them about academics, they come a lot easier because you already have that relationship. I love seeing the kids out there because they love it too.”

At the end of the 2019 football season, she created the team’s pregame playlist, which continued into the 2019-20 basketball season. She also started to take pictures for both the students and the school, accompanying the team through its deep playoff run. She was even on the bench right after the Panthers lost the 1A championship game, helping to console the players.

“I think it’s a really easy and good way for me to plug into the community and the school system,” Jay said. “I don’t think I would have done it if they weren’t so welcoming. Everybody welcomed me with open arms and just made me so comfortable.”

Jay has also started to make highlight videos of different players that they can put on social media and try and garner attention from colleges to continue their athletic careers. So far, she’s made about 10 highlight videos for different students that just sent her tape and their information.

Alongside using her photography and video knowledge for athletics, Jay also uses them in the classroom whenever possible.

Since she became a teacher, Jay has taken photos of her classes throughout the year to document the different events and classroom activities throughout the year.

“When I started teaching and realized that it was a really good way to build relationships with the kids, and to document our year,” Jay said. “It’s just like a really good way for us to remember how far everybody’s come.”

Along with the curriculum lessons that she’s sent to the students once COVID-19 canceled school, Jay has been using this time to teach her students life lessons.

On this past Tuesday, she sent letters to each of her students, so they could see exactly what they would need to do and where to put all the information when sending a letter.

One activity that Jay has done the last several years with her students is to plant a potted plant before Mother’s Day, so the students can take it to their mothers as a present as well as learn about plants and their growth.

With COVID-19 canceling school, Jay was unable to teach the interactive lesson, so she made a video with her parents detailing how to plant a potted plant, so her students can still do the lesson at home with their families.