Recipient of the Phi Delta Kappa Unsung Hero Award
On April 3, Ernie McCray was honored by the San Diego Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, an international association for professional educators. The Kappan awards bestowed earlier in the evening were for individuals and organizations that have made a substantive difference for those wishing to become educators and for children within the school system.
Ernie’s award came later in the evening, after the recognition of Partner in Education, Educator of the Year, and Leadership. Those of us who know Ernie would be hard pressed to sum up his presence and contributions in just one category– he is known by thousands of students, parents and colleagues as an extraordinary educator; he has been a tireless advocate for peace and justice in the streets and in our schools; you can find him from time to time on a stage, acting and reading his poetry; and he has a following on the San Diego Free Press and OBRag where he contributes essays and poetry. Unsung Hero is a pretty good fit and that was his award designation.
Dr. Jeannie Steeg who presented Ernie’s award, spoke about some of his most memorable qualities as a school principal and educator. Ernie took a leave of absence when his twin daughters were born. While this may not be too out of the ordinary now, Ernie made this decision thirty six years ago, becoming a trail blazer in recognizing the need for not only maternity leave, but paternity leave as well.
Ernie retired in 1999, after thirty-seven years as a creative educator who always put children first. Dr. Steeg noted that Ernie emphasized the arts as the realm in which human beings find the essence of who they really are. When Ernie received his award, he pulled a few sheets of paper from his jacket, and true to his inimitable style, read a poem.
It was a very special poem, written in the 1960’s. He recited it at that time to the children of Cabrillo Elementary School, when he introduced himself to them as their new principal. Congratulations Ernie.