One Page Bio

Who is Jay?

Jay Stailey was born and raised in the Midwest but landed in Houston, Texas, in 1980. After a stint in the elementary classroom and library, he was a public school administrator for 25 years. He currently serves as a professional service provider to schools in transformation with the Region 13 Education Service Center in Austin, Texas. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Downtown in the Department of Urban Education. Jay is the author of Think Rather of Zebra: Dealing with Aspects of Poverty Through Story. He has been working with Ruby Payne and aha! Process since 1992.

Jay’s credentials


  • M.S. in Elementary Education, University of Houston Clear Lake
  • B.S. in Early and Middle Childhood Education, The Ohio State University

Work history

  • Professional Service Provider, Region 13 Education Service Center
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Houston Downtown and Clear Lake campuses
  • School Administration, Houston Area Schools
  • School Librarian and Media Specialist, Houston Area Schools
  • Teacher, Librarian, Administrator, Southern Peru Copper Corporation


  • Think Rather of Zebra: Dealing with Aspects of Poverty Through Story, aha! Process, 1997
  • Short Tales, Tall Tales, and Tales of Medium Stature, Island Publishing,1989

Jay’s aha! moment

While principal at Carver Elementary, a Title I school in Baytown, Texas, I met Ruby Payne when she was brought on to be the district’s director of staff development. After publishing her first edition of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, she approached me about a collection of stories that paralleled her theories. Think Rather of Zebra was published in 1997, and I began working with aha! Process as a part-time consultant at the turn of the century.

Jay’s passions?

At the time I began work on Think Rather of Zebra, I was serving on the board of directors of the National Storytelling Association. As a professional storyteller and storytelling enthusiast, I continue to share, teach, and perform stories around the world. I am also a trained labyrinth facilitator and transition coach, and I consult in that capacity with the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance.

Jay’s best training

My favorite moments during workshops occur whenever someone says, “I’d never thought about the importance of story and how we use story to find meaning in our world. I think I will try to get my students to share their stories of challenge and success with each other.”

What does Jay do for fun?

Travel! Whether it’s to visit my daughter in New York City, family in the Midwest, or to head out on some international adventure, I love how travel places me in liminal space and time. Last year I traveled in Ethiopia, sightseeing and providing workshops for Ethiopia Reads. This year it’s telling stories at an international storytelling festival in Ireland.