A teacher at Monument High School in South Boston has been named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.
Adam Gray, who was recognized for his work by state and city officials at a Beacon Hill ceremony, has taught 10th-grade math at Monument for five years. He founded the school's Mu Alpha Theta honor society, the first of its kind in the Boston Public School system.
"I asked, 'How can we get these fully capable but low achieving students to realize their potential?' " Gray said. "I wanted some of the lower achieving students to see what the high performing students were getting out of the honor society, and try emulate it."
Members get to "see the world that exists beyond their neighborhood," visiting college campuses, taking SAT prep classes, and volunteering at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. At the end of the school year, the students take an all-expenses-paid field trip -- this spring, Grey brought 29 high school students to Washington D.C.
Nearly 10 percent of Monument students are now involved in the mathematics achievement program.
Monument, one of the lowest-performing institutions in the Boston Public School system, will merge with Excel Academy next year as part of Superintendent Carol Johnson's plan to close or merge18 schools in order to close $63 million budget deficit.
"It's definitely bittersweet," says Gray, who will begin teaching at Boston Latin this fall. His five-year tenure at Monument is the only real job he's had.
Gray recalls his first year as a teacher as trial by fire. He lost 15 pounds, dreaded wrangling the copy machine, and his students dubbed him Ronald McDonald, a reference to his dramatic hairline which reminded them of the golden arches.
"A lot of first year teachers struggle with finding their style. Once I realized my colleague Jamie Doherty was having excellent success, I tried to emulate some of his best qualities," he said. "One of my best and most exhausting qualities is that I'm very high energy. It doesn't take the students long to learn that my expectations are very high. It gets them riled up."
E-mail Cara Bayles at firstname.lastname@example.org.