Documentary pays tribute to Gloria Merriex

Late Duval teacher still known for her teaching teachnique


The teaching methods of the late Gloria Merriex have been explored in a documentary called “Discovering Gloria,” which will be shown next Thursday at Lincoln Middle School. (Special to the Guardian)

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 3:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 3:41 p.m.

Although Gloria Jean Merriex passed away in 2008, her teaching techniques are alive and well and making a difference for students throughout the nation.

Facts

‘DISCOVERING GLORIA’

* What: “Discovering Gloria,” a documentary on the late Gloria Merriex, a longtime teacher.

* When: 6:30-8 p.m. Sept. 26.

* Where: Lincoln Middle School, 1001 SE 12th St.

* Information: Call 352-273-0289.

And you can learn about Merriex, who taught math at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy, and her technique that uses music, dance, repetition and movement to teach math concepts, and also hear her family members, students and colleagues share their memories at the premiere of "Discovering Gloria," a documentary by Boaz Dvir, a University of Florida filmaker.

"She came up with a new way of teaching," said Dvir, who directed and produced "Discovering Gloria." "The documentary explores Gloria's teaching genius." Dvir teaches documentary filmmaking in the UF College of Education and is the operations manager of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, the sponsor of the event.

"Discovering Gloria" will be shown from 6:30-8 p.m. Sept. 26 at Lincoln Middle School at 1001 SE 12th St. It is free and open to the community.

The event will include opening remarks by Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd, the 40-minute documentary, and a post-screening panel discussion and dialogue with the audience.

Dvir said the documentary shows Merriex engaging her math and reading students through her innovations, which included hip-hop and dance routines.

Merriex, a lifelong Gainesville resident who died at the age of 58 in May 2008, has two adult children, Tayana Washington and Carl Brown, and three grandchildren. Merriex taught for 30 years at Duval.

"She was at the top of her game when she died," said Leanetta McNealy, a former Duval principal and current member of the Alachua County School Board. "Her death was a great loss to the school and the students." McNealy said Merriex was a very skilled teacher whose work became well-known as educators from all over the state came to Duval to visit her classroom to see her in action.

"We had so many visitations from all over the state that we had to set up two days a month for visitors," said McNealy, adding that Merriex was a no-nonsense teacher who expected her students to learn and, in turn, they knew she was there to help them succeed.

McNealy said Merriex's teaching of math was unique in that she started at the back of the book with the advanced concepts first then moved to the easier concepts at the beginning of the book. McNealy said Merriex used repetition, music, lyrics and dance to teach math concepts and make it fun.

Cenia Merriex said her daughter lived with her, and most nights, stayed up late preparing for class and looking for ways to reach her students. "It was all about the children," said Cenia Merriex.

After her daughter's death, Cenia Merriex said people would come by to tell her how her daughter had helped them. And that's how she learned about a woman she gave food to regularly and a shut-in she visited.

"She was very compassionate," said Cenia Merriex. "She was interested in helping people, but didn't talk about it."

Jacquan Craig, a former Duval student who recently graduated from St. Leo University with a bachelor's degree, said Gloria Merriex was a great teacher who was stern, but caring. He said Gloria Merriex taught him math by merging it with music and rap, and he can still rap to those math concepts. "She was a second mom to any student," Craig said. "With her, it was all about the students."

Dvir said Gloria Merriex was a master teacher and key in taking Duval from an "F" school in 2002 to an "A" school just one year later.

During the event, Dvir said there also will be an opportunity for panelists to interact with the audience. The panelists will include UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton, who worked closely with Merriex; Thomasenia Adams, associate dean for research in the UF College of Education, who studied Merriex's methods; Elizabeth Bondy, director of the UF College of Education School of Teaching and Learning; McNealy; Angela Terrell, piano teacher, activist of the arts and the Duval fine arts facilitator during Merriex's tenure, and Emily Bonner, assistant professor at the University of Texas who did her dissertation on Merriex's teaching techniques.

The panel also will feature two of the 35 former Duval students of Merriex who are expected to attend. They are Charlie Brown, a UF premed junior, and Jasmine Patterson, a Santa Fe College freshman.

"Gloria's innovative approach of teaching her students using rhythm, rhyme and movement is legendary in the Duval Elementary School community," said Boyd in a press release. "Through this documentary, people outside that community will also have an opportunity to learn about Gloria's methods and her many contributions to education."

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