Two Long-Time Teachers Retire

August 22, 2023

SHREVEPORT, LA. – Both Joyce Fortner and Jan Ray are going into retirement this year. These teachers have been with us for a very long time and will be greatly missed for the care they have put into the training of our children over a combined 70 years of service.

Jan Ray grew up in North Louisiana, in the Vivian area, or more specifically, in a little place called “Dixie.” It was a peaceful environment and a great place to live as a young girl, riding horseback on country roads lined with cotton fields. So, although she and her husband, Ron, moved around a bit in their earlier years of marriage, living in at least three other states besides Louisiana, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference is “home.” 

She and Ron were glad to settle down and serve in familiar territory for the past 30 years. Ray has been teaching for 20 years, 15 of which she has served in the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference and the children of the Hot Springs Adventist School. The first five years of teaching were at Ozark Adventist School, where she worked part time, while she had a little one at home. Ray has three grown children, so she was a stay-at-home mom for several years, and when the youngest one was in school, she received her degree from Southwestern Adventist University and started teaching. 

She has always been interested in children’s ministries, participating in Sabbath school and VBS even before teaching. Most recently, she has taught K-4 grades at Hot Springs Adventist School. Always interested in music, she has frequently participated at camps and in Sabbath school playing the guitar. For several years, both in Hot Springs and Gentry, she taught hand chimes to the fifth and eighth grades. 

It makes her heart happy to see young people in her church participating in the singing and music, and she plans to continue her involvement with the children and youth, even though she is retiring from her school duties. Ray has cleaned out her classroom for the last time and has packed away her teaching tools. Although it was a bit sad, she is excited to be able to visit her grandkids on occasions other than school holidays and to spend more time with her husband, who also recently retired. Ray was celebrated by her church members and the conference education department in a special ceremony on May 25 in Hot Springs.

Joyce Fortner has been teaching for 50 years, and 23 of those have been in our school at Little Rock, Ark. If you ever get a chance to talk to Fortner, you will be amazed by her story. From an orphanage to being adopted into a home that fostered and cared for many, she has been devoted to children since her own childhood. Mother to six children and wife to a pastor for many years, Fortner has a passion for children and the Gospel. She says she would love for all kids to have the opportunity to say “Yes” to Jesus, regardless of how much it costs. She is very supportive of the Adventist high school in Little Rock. A former co-worker who is now teaching in Taiwan gave three points that describe Fortner’s level of dedication: 1. Sick, dead or alive, you report. 2. It’s never too early to come to work (she can easily be at the school by 6 a.m.) and 3. There is nothing that prayer cannot handle. Fortner herself says that once you are called, you are always called. The Holy Spirit called her at age 14, and she has not looked back! Fortner is not necessarily excited about retirement, but it is time for her to move on in her calling to a different mission, focusing on home and family.

Fortner was recognized for her more than 50 years of service in children’s ministries at the North American Division Children’s Ministries Convention in Greensboro, N.C., in January 2023, and was given a short farewell ceremony at the South Louisiana Camp Meeting, which she was also involved with as children’s ministries director. She will remain the active children’s ministries director for the conference, even in retirement.

By Frances Alcorn

Communication Director