Massachusetts Teacher of the Year: Adam Gray

Congrats to the Massachusetts Teacher Of The Year. Adam Gray taught math at Monument High School in South Boston. He is also a policy fellow with Teach Plus. I enjoyed the remarks he made in his acceptance speech. I'm sure Charlie Sposato, who won this award for 1990-91, would have too. Adam said:

I want to conclude by thanking the people who have most inspired me to be here today: my students. At the end of every school year, I make a point to write individual letters of reflection and encouragement to each of the young men and women I teach. They’re most often filled with rambling words of inspiration, dorky anecdotes and analogies, and occasionally a genuine insight into the individual’s life and purpose. A couple of years ago, as I was writing one such letter and found my soliloquy spilling onto the fourth handwritten page, I stopped and thought, “What am I doing? Why am I writing half of a Goosebumps book to a kid whose only interest is to get to the beach and enjoy the summer?” It didn’t take much reflection to realize, then as is now, that I wrote to acknowledge the deep inspiration and wisdom that I draw from my students every day.

Two of them are present today – Jennifer and Andres Mejia. You both validate the investment of emotion and time that we educators make every day. I have learned more about determination, perseverance, and resilience from you than you ever learned about math from me. Andres at the University of NH and Jennifer at Northeastern University, I speak on behalf of all of your teachers when I tell you that you both continue to make us proud. Know that I am not surprised by your awesomeness, but I am impressed. You inspire me and give me hope for future generations of students. Remember where you came from as you find your places in this world, and make it a part of your mission in life to give back to your communities, so that others will know that they too can be successful like you.

A coda from the AFT website:

Gray’s selection as Teacher of the Year for his work at Monument High School is not without irony. Monument, designated a failing school by the state, will close at the end of this school year....starting this fall Gray will be teaching 9th and 10th grade math at Boston Latin.

Latin is the city's elite exam admission school; all of his 9th graders will have aced the state's 8th grade exams. Teaching anywhere is a challenge, for sure. But I can't help but wonder if the raw grind of teaching kids who arrive as low achievers was a factor in his switching to a very different type of school.

Setting aside whatever his personal tale is, certainly the general story is quite common in no excuses charter schools. The 70 hour weeks (combining a "normal" 50 hour week with an extra 20 reserved just to motivate/cajole) become, at some point, hard to sustain. It leads a number of strong teachers to either switch professions or switch to schools where kids arrive on (or above) grade level.