Sally Ann Gray has been developing human potential for over twenty years, and defines success as being of service to others. A trained teacher by profession, this keynote speaker, educational consultant and author tells All Woman that what sets her apart from others, is her ability to connect with people in an authentic way based on her personal story of defeat and triumph. And when she shares with audiences, she focuses on insightful ideas and actionable approaches one can use to improve mindset, performance and results.
"Being a wife, a mom, educator, business owner, speaker and author means that there are several things that are competing for my attention, but I am cognisant that I must take time to give God thanks before jumping in," she shared.
"The root of my resilience is understanding that from a young age, I was marked by God, though it took me years to fully understand the assignment He had predestined for me. Now that I understand it, I am driven by His purpose for my life and [helping] the people I am called to help walk in theirs."
Hailing originally from Kingston, Gray describes herself as a developer of people by purpose — as a veteran educator, she has worked with government agencies and corporate entities globally, and has also won numerous awards for her books on mindset and purpose.
Her books offer practical tools for shifting mindset, leading a purposeful life and achieving results both personally and professionally.
Adopted at three months old, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at 15, and kicked out of high school at 17, it was her past, Gray said, that led to her own personal struggles with a poor mindset in her formative years.
She said she was always a smart girl, but she struggled with low self-esteem.
"Teachers said I would never amount to anything, that I was loud, that I talked too much. There was generally a sense of intolerance because my behaviours were different. The teachers were not entirely to blame though. I did sneak out of school — I did do things that went against the grain of the institution. If rules are broken, there should be consequences.What I will say is this: there must be a greater push towards understanding the total child. The question I now know to ask as an educator is this, 'Am I teaching children to pass standardised tests, or am I teaching them to pass the test of life?' How an educator answers this question will help drive their teaching philosophy and overall approach."
As such, her mission is to help others improve their mindset to achieve results in their personal and professional lives.
"After being kicked out of high school, I read a book titled Gifted Hands by Ben Carson; that book took me on a path to understanding how many people battle mentally with issues from their past," she said. "I went to counselling and understood more about myself and the things I struggled with such as abandonment. I had no clue how my past impacted my negative outlook on life. Once my mind was healed and my thinking was shifted, I set out on a mission to help others shift their mindset so they could transform their lives."
She said at heart, she wants everyone she serves to understand that how we think impacts what we do and what we do impacts our results.
The founder of Gray Focus Training Solutions, a company developing corporate teams on a range of communication skills, Gray's philosophy is simple: "I remain committed to growth in all areas of my life and when I grow, I grow others!"
"I believe it is part of my life's assignment and mandate – to help others grow and see results in their personal and professional lives is my purpose," she said. "Success is leaving the earth better than I found it and using my gifts and talents to help others step into their greatness."
In 2019, she won the Indie Author Legacy Awards (IALA) Author of the Year award in Baltimore, Maryland for her first book, The Renewal. Currently, she is pursuing her PhD in educational leadership at Delaware State University.
Speaking of a work project she's most proud of, Gray said it was her 'My Mindset Matters' curriculum that she wrote and implemented with some teenagers.
"To witness extreme transformation in children dubbed the worst of the worst is the joy of my life," she said.
"In addition to that, I launched the 'Read, Renew, Restore' reading campaign in Jamaica in 2018. I gave away over 200 books to high school libraries across Jamaica. I believe it greatly impacted the minds of youth who read the books. It is the joy of my life to serve young people."
Gray's list of educational achievements is extensive – upon her graduation from the Mico University College in 2002, the St Andrew High School alumna was awarded The Jamaica Association for the Deaf Shield for best performance in education. Fluent in sign language, her first job was special education teacher at St Andrew High, ironically, the same school that kicked her out in lower sixth form.
"I would say that was a life come full circle moment," she shared.
She completed her master's degree in educational leadership in 2008 at Virginia Commonwealth University, and her expertise has led her to serve on many steering committees to solve a broad range of educational issues affecting society, to include curriculum development and special education in Jamaica. She was recently recruited by the Savannah Chatham Public School System in Georgia, United States as a special education teacher. In January this year, she was named Georgia Learning Resources System 2023 Special Educator of the Year, International through the school district.
She also has a bachelor's in special education from The University of the West Indies (Mona).
Gray said her parents Selburn and Marjorie Sharpe motivate her everyday – "to see the look in their eyes when they witness what God is doing in and through me gives my heart joy".
"When people tell me how much of a blessing I am to them, it motivates me to keep pushing in purpose," she said.
Married to her "best friend" Mark, and mother to Malachi and Sarah, she said she takes great care in her role as wife and mother.
"My children are fruits of my womb, my contribution to carrying humanity forward. I love the light they carry, I love the gifts they possess and I look forward to how they will make their own mark on this world," she gushed.
And: "I think Mark has helped nurture me and he is to be credited with a lot of my maturity and growth. He supports me in purpose and I love him so much. Mark is my best friend and I thank God for blessing me with such a supportive partner and friend."