All scholars at Catalyst Academy thrive with the support and connections they form with our teachers and staff. Getting to know each other is such a treat and an important part of building connections that we decided to interview our Catalyst Principal Darren Gray. Keep reading to learn all about this excellent leader and what makes him such a good match for our Catalyst community.

Darren Gray – Catalyst Academy Founding Principal

Darren Gray, Catalyst Academy Founding Principal with a young scholar on “Dress like the principal day”

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

My journey into education was heavily informed by my experiences in school as a child. Growing up in the rural South surrounded by the remnants and consequences of the Civil Rights Era, I knew the importance of getting a quality education. The idea of education as the pathway to a better life drove my mother, grandmother, and aunties to pour into me and do everything that they could to support my growth. As I entered college, I saw the disparities between my educational experiences and those of my peers that grew up in more affluent environments. The questions of “Why?” began to sit in my brain from that point forward. Why do these disparities exist? Why are they allowed to persist? Why are we not working to change this? Moving through college, I thought I would address this question by pursuing a law degree but, for the lack of a better word, I had an epiphany around wanting to work directly with students. So, I joined Teach for America, an organization whose mission is to work toward the day when every child will receive an excellent and equitable education. I worked in the Mississippi Delta and saw the systemic impact of educational inequity. It was during this time that I knew that this was the work that I would be committed to for the rest of my life.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was my AP English teacher, Monica Taylor. Mrs. Taylor was the teacher that pushed me to consistently produce my best work 100% of the time. Mrs. Taylor believed in my potential and worked to have me see that potential as well. She is a huge part of why I went to college and saw myself as someone that could succeed in that environment. 

How does the Catalyst Academy mission and vision align with your personal values?

The mission and vision of Catalyst speak directly to my personal values and beliefs. In my life, I believe in the idea of our “found family.” In life, as humans, we thrive in commune and community with others. Catalyst is doing the work of creating a space where scholars, parents/families, and community members feel a tangible sense of belonging. As people, I believe that we are never “done.” We never get to this place where we are finished learning or growing. Our school community consistently promotes a growth mindset by teaching our scholars the language and mindsets of growth.

Darren Gray, Catalyst Academy Founding Principal


What do you love most about your role?

Ahhhh! This is such a hard question. My role is one that is multi-faceted and in that, I love so many parts of it; however, it all comes back to scholars and their success. I really enjoy coaching and developing members of our leadership, teaching, and learning teams. I also love going into classrooms daily to directly support instruction. The parts of my role that I love the most are those that directly impact scholar outcomes and their future success.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I am an avid reader. I love a good book suggestion so feel free anytime to talk to me about books. I have loved playing basketball since I was young and try to play whenever I get the chance. On the weekends, you can often find me out in one of the many beautiful parks around Pittsburgh (most likely Frick or Highland).

Join our Community

Every day at Catalyst we lean into moments of growth together, provide extra support, and celebrate each scholar. If you are looking for a world-class education and a community that cares about every child, we welcome you to join us. Enrolling now.

About Catalyst

Catalyst Academy Charter School’s mission is to prepare all students for college, career, and life. Catalyst Academy Charter School’s core values of Belong. Grow. Achieve. reflect the school’s deep commitment to cultivating an inclusive supportive school community where everyone – children and adults – is focused on learning every day, in order for all students to define and achieve their dreams. Catalyst Academy Charter School’s education model is designed to close both the achievement and opportunity gap.  The approach couples rigorous core academics with a broad offering in the arts and sciences. Students will experience STEM learning daily and arts programming four days per week. Enroll your Kinder, First, or Second grader today!