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Adam Gray

Teacher of the Year - Massachusetts

1

Every human being, regardless of age, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture, and socioeconomic background, aspires to be passionate and great at something.

This is as true for a disruptive, inattentive, and troubled student as it is for the one that is respectful, confident, and committed. This is as true for children coming from low-income no-parent or single parent households as it is for ones living with both parents in safe neighborhoods. This is as true for the CEO of an organization as it is for everyone she employs. When individuals are acknowledged, supported, and consistently empowered, they do the same for their families, their friends, their colleagues, and for members of their community. When we live and work in communities where these are the norm, our sense of belonging and our self-worth thrive. Subsequently, we are more creative, we work diligently towards achieving our dreams, and we help others realize theirs.

2

Experience is life's greatest teacher.

Consistently effective educators are ones that provide students with opportunities to engage with content in ways that challenge their assumptions about the world and inspire them to ask questions, not to merely generate answers. These educators also routinely engage their colleagues and other stakeholders in conversations on how community members can work collaboratively to realize its full potential. Lastly, these educators are active listeners and lifelong learners that respect and embrace perspectives different from their own. The expectations they have for themselves are similar to the ones they have for others. They are receptive to changes in their ideals about the world and its citizens as a result of their experience.

3

Poverty is not a learning disability.

I know this because I have benefited from family members prior to my existence that refused to allow challenging circumstances and limited resources prevent them from achieving their goals and from providing for their families. I know this because every year that I have been a teacher, I have witnessed struggling but inspired students begin to see themselves in a different light and begin to work relentlessly towards reaching their full potential. I have watched students become the first in their families to graduate from high school and to attend college. Because of the vision and diligence of their teachers and mentors, these students, much like my elders, rejected anything less than excellence and realized what many of us working in struggling schools know to be true. Poverty is not a learning disability.

4

The most effective teams are ones comprised of individuals that genuinely care for the well-being of their teammates and place more importance on the collective goals of the team than they do on their own personal or professional ambitions.

These teams are made up of well intentioned, passionate, and dedicated people with diverse skill sets. They plan strategically, not impulsively, and consistently have the teams’ long-term goals in mind whenever a decision is made. Individuals on effective teams tailor their management style to fit the personalities of their teammates. These individuals have high expectations for themselves, for those they work with, and for those they work for. Members of high performing teams hold each other accountable, give kudos when appropriate, and provide support when individual and collective goals are not met.

5

As children, we learn to never speak with strangers. As adults, we learn that engaging strangers in conversations is often informative and frequently influences the way we view the world.

Every friend, teacher, coach, colleague, or partner we have ever had was once a stranger. We would never have learned as much as we have about life if we keep strangers at bay. Enter every conversation with someone you do not know thinking “What can I learn from this person?” rather than “What can this person learn from me?” Ask questions, listen attentively, and have the courage to speak your mind or respectfully disagree when it is your turn to talk. You will find that doing so advances your thinking and often fleshes out the best ideas around any given topic. Never eat alone, never ride an elevator in silence, and always talk to strangers.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.

Biography

A strong desire to educate and inspire urban students in a high need school led Adam Gray to the Boston Public Schools where he has taught mathematics for six years. Adam believes that all students have the ability to achieve at high levels and that it is his duty as a teacher to help them reach their full potential. As a result, Adam’s professional mission is twofold: to inspire his students to believe in their abilities, and to motivate them to accomplish the goals they set for themselves. He works towards achieving this by increasing students’ confidence in their ability to be successful, by establishing a classroom culture where challenges are embraced, and by setting the expectation that greatness requires constant diligence.

In addition to teaching mathematics, Adam has served as a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. In this role, Adam met monthly with other Fellows and Teach Plus leadership to learn about education policy at the federal, state, and district level and to discuss its impact on students and teachers at the classroom level. Adam worked with other Teach Plus colleagues to increase the level of collaboration between more effective schools and their underperforming counterparts, as well as to foster greater union involvement among early career and second-stage teachers working in Boston Public Schools. At the end of his fifth year of teaching, Adam was selected as the 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.