The History of Ruby McCray's Spanish Vocabulary Books and Music

Music is simply a way of life for Ruby McCray.  Spanish is the second love.  She taught her son, Joel McCray, piano,  He is a worship minister at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas, and is also a producer and owns his own music studio.  Ruby taught her daughter, Joyliet McCray Jackson, piano, as well.  She is also a minister of music.

As an instructor of Spanish at Waco Christian School some fifteen years ago, Ruby found herself unable to convey the Spanish language to her students.  She set some of her Spanish lessons to Rap and music, searching for a way to make her students understand and appreciate the language.  She was at a loss to figure out what she could do.

"They hated Spanish," said Ruby.  "They were always so sad, and the whole atmosphere was almost depressing, until the Lord told me what to do."  Being an evangelist whose sole purpose in life is to please God, she turned to prayer for answers.  She said the Lord reminded her that in years past, she had taught her children their addresses, family tree, numbers, putting everything in song form.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Ruby pulled out her paper, pen, piano, and some of the other instruments that she plays and went to work.  She put the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, and colors to music in Rap form.  The more she prayed, the more verses she received.  She began to compose different songs to teach different concepts.  By the end of that school year, her first composition, which is called, "An Educational Rap," has eighteen verses.

"I could tell that things were changing," she said.  But when she introduced the bluesy lesson, "Forming Plurals of Words," she knew that she had made a breakthrough.  Some of the students said they hated the very thought of that Spanish class, but the music made it fun.  Ray Austin, one of the students who hated the class, convinced all of the others to bring their sunglasses to class, and as they sang the blues, he would instruct them to swing their heads from side to side, Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder style."

Ruby said, "Although they did not always remember the English meanings of the words and phrases that they had orally committed to memory, they were able to sing the songs.  I knew that I would be able to help them connect the two languages together during our class sessions.  They sang in the hallways and outside.  I composed songs to teach the verbs' endings in the different tenses, as well as songs to teach the conjugations in the different tenses."

"It appeared that when some of the students saw me in the hallway, cafeteria, or outside, it was their cue to strike up one of the songs.  "They were actually having fun," Ruby said.  And today, that one revelation has led to three volumes of songbooks with accompaniment and performances tracks on CDs, including a variety of styles: Country-Western, Blues, Native American, Black Gospel, Spanish, and Reggae.

Another student said, "That woman taught me so much about Spanish; she taught me to love the language."  She said when she was a student at McLennan Community College, she passed her Spanish tests singing songs she learned while in high school.  She remembered entering her college Spanish class late because of a schedule conflict. The day she finally walked in, the students were taking a test.  She said, "I had not attended any of the classes prior to that. It was my first day," but Ruby's songs and Raps began to play in her head.  She said that she passed that test and many others because of the songs and Raps she learned in high school.

According to Ruby, Spanish is not easy to learn because students have difficulty remembering vocabulary words and verbs conjugations. They must train their muscles to form certain words. "Muscles have memory. What we teach our muscles to do, they do."

It was only at the end of that school year, 1994, that Ruby realized the impact her music had made on her students. "They had learned the material; it had helped them. Then, I wanted to help everybody."

Ruby, who taught Spanish in the Continuing Education department at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, from January 1999 through December 2005, has now introduced her different styles of teaching to hundreds of others, so much so that some area high schools were using some of her material. Ruby, however, has tried to inform her users about copyright infringement.

Fortunately, her son, Joel, produced all of her music in his studio in Arlington, Texas. They finished Volumes I and II in 2002, and Volume III in 2004 along with the Spanish dictionary, Build Your Spanish Vocabulary Through Humor (Even if it Takes A Little Ebonics).

Ruby is now known as the "Singing Spanish Teacher" at McLennan Community College, where she taught Beginning and Intermediate Spanish. In the spring of 2003, she implemented the first Advanced Intermediate Spanish class, and organized the first Spanish Club in January 2004.