REED CITY — When Katrina Wray’s life took an unexpected left turn after she had established a career she loved, it ended up benefiting hundreds of students at Reed City High School.

As a paralegal, Wray had worked in the Mecosta County prosecutor’s office, for defense attorney James Samuels and in the offices of the 77th District Court. She “really loved” being a paralegal — but she loved her children more, and when she and her husband divorced, she decided to find a job that better aligned with her sons’ school schedules.

Enter Kristina Wray the teacher.

For the past 10 years, she has been the Spanish teacher at Reed City High School. Though her boys Jarod and Jaydon are now grown, she remains in teaching because she enjoys the work so much.

“I had no idea I was going to love the kids like I do,” she said. “The absolute best part of this job is the kids. Most of the time, they can make any bad day seem better.”

Wray’s pleasure in teaching is apparent to her students.

“She enjoys her job — you can tell,” said student Erin O’Callaghan. “She’s good at explaining things, very approachable and fun to be around. She’s very influential to a lot of people.”

In addition to teaching, Wray also coaches the Quizbowl and golf teams.

“She always has lots to say — she has a lot of knowledge,” said Troy Todd. “She’s also our Quizbowl coach and brings a wealth of knowledge and is a good moderator.”

Monty Price, Reed City High School principal, also appreciates the rapport Wray has with her pupils.

“She connects extremely well with her students and works hard to provide her learners with well-structured and engaging lessons,” he said. “She facilitates a learning environment that is prioritized on relationships and collaboration.”

While she may be well-versed as a teacher now, she didn’t start out that way. She began as a long-term substitute the year before she graduated, which meant she hadn’t yet completed her student teaching.

“I came out of college ready for lesson planning,” she recalled. “I had everything drawn up and knew exactly what I was going to be teaching each day. The first day, I went right into my lesson and the kids were like, ‘Um, aren’t you going to take attendance?’ And I said, ‘Oh, right!’

“Then I’m continuing along and the kids asked, ‘Aren’t you going to pass out textbooks?’ As I was doing that, then they asked, ‘Aren’t you going to write down who has what number book?’”

Looking back, Wray can laugh about her first day and her face melts into a smile about the many special moments she has shared with her students.

“Connecting with kids is so important,” she said. “I think for some kids, they feel like they don’t really connect with anyone. Being able to be a positive person in their lives is great. I had the benefit of the most wonderful parents anyone could imagine, but I don’t take for granted that everybody has that.”