Gail Gorry loves Payson. She has made a full life here since 1985.
She met and married her husband, Wayne here in 1992, and in 1994, they had a son, Cypress.
Gorry has worked in the Payson School District since moving here from the Navajo Reservation, teaching for several years at Julia Randall Elementary School, then working at both Payson Elementary and Rim Country Middle Schools.
In 1999 she joined the staff of Frontier Elementary School, teaching first grade, while her husband taught its physical education program and their son started kindergarten.
She continued as a first grade teacher at FES for two years, then took over a third grade class. When Sue Myers, the school's founding principal retired, Gorry applied for the job.
This is her first year as an administrator and she is thrilled to be working with the staff members who were her co-workers. But becoming FES principal meant her husband had to move to another school. He is now teaching third grade at JRE, the place where Gorry started her career with the Payson district.
"I have the best staff, the most wonderful parents and super students. What more could I ask for? The people in the district and the community have become our family," Gorry said.
She was born in Chicago, but grew up in Indiana. She came to Arizona in 1981 to do her student teaching on the Navajo Reservation.
She found Payson by networking with members of the education department at Northern Arizona University.
She interviewed with Johnny Ketchem, longtime Payson administrator and was hired. She started teaching third grade in the gym at JRE, with a stack of Xerox boxes providing a wall between her space and that of another teacher.
The school was in the process of finishing its administration building and cafeteria and had to begin the school year by improvising classrooms.
"It was an echo chamber, but the boxes made great bulletin boards," Gorry said.
The construction work was completed in time for her class to move into a real room in October.
In addition to her classroom work, Gorry spent time teaching music, moving between the middle school and PES. She was also involved in the district's career ladder program and worked as its music coordinator, developing curriculum to state standards.
Outside of the school district, Gorry said she is very active in the Methodist Church, serving as its music director and has, in the past, been the pianist for the community choral society. Gorry is a member of the Kiwanis of Zane Grey Country.
She also works very hard to make time for her family. This past weekend, they went to Durango for mountain bike riding. They do a lot of riding around town and like to tandem bike, she said.
Gorry is also active in the new Art Beat, a group of people hoping to create a network for artists and art events. Working with a grant from the Arizona Arts Foundation, they are building a website which will include a database of artists and arts events available in the community.
Over the years Gorry has seen a lot of changes in both the school district and the community.
The biggest changes for the school district: the number of students enrolled; the number of school sites; the changes and growth to accommodate the needs of the students.
Her school is running out of room. If there was money to hire another teacher, she would have no classroom for them to use.
There are 412 students at FES, which was built to accommodate 450.
"We want to be known as a community school and we have a community event each month. We want to provide a safe environment and a quality education and give students a joy in learning. We want them to know they can be anybody they want to be, they have the potential. All that potential walks through the doors every day," Gorry said.
Name: Gail Gorry
Occupation: Principal, Frontier Elementary School
Employer: Payson School District
Age: "Prime" - 43 and going strong
Birthplace: Chicago, Ill.
Family: Husband, Wayne; and sons, Cypress, 8 and Aspen, 20
Personal motto: Did I make a difference in a person's life today?
Inspiration: Jesus Christ
Greatest feat: Perseverance; physically, finishing a mountain bike race with a broken shoulder; professionally, waiting 12 years after earning my degree to receive a principal's position; personally, reading and memorizing Scripture.
My favorite hobby or leisure activity is: piano playing and bicycle riding.
The three words that describe me best are: positive, inspiring and spiritual.
I don't want to brag, but ... I have the best family in the world, a loving husband and two great sons
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Mary, mother of Jesus
Dream vacation spot: Bonaire
Why Payson? We have clean air, friendly faces, beautiful views.