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Gary G. Abud, Jr.,, @mr_abud,

What is your current job of position?

I am a high school science teacher and an instructional coach in a large suburban district outside of Detroit, MI. I work with 10th – 12th graders in the areas of physics and chemistry (Top 50 Mole Day Jokes), but also with PreK-12 classrooms, providing support in the areas of instruction, curriculum, assessment, and technology.

What is your educational background?

I have an undergraduate degree in science and philosophy, along with a master’s degree in teaching. I am currently a doctoral student pursuing a PhD in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Describe your educational philosophy and educational vision?

My philosophy of education is that all students are capable of learning and that learning happens best when kids can connect new ideas to prior experience. My vision for education is a system in which kids are given experiences in which they can construct their understanding with the helpful guidance of a teacher. Learning should be an experience that fosters a growth mindset and school should be fun. When kids take an active role in developing their own learning, I believe that students will do better in the long run than if they are simply told what they need to know and try to remember it.

How do you grow and engage your professional learning network?

I grow and engage my professional learning network in three main ways: through face-to-face interactions with other educators in my daily work as an instructional coach, by attending and presenting at conferences, and by being active on social media. I try to honor the value of facetime in relationships and professional learning first and foremost. While there is much to learn from those who you’ve never met by exchanging ideas online, there is a lot to be said for an in-person conversation with other educators. By presenting at and attending conferences, I get to learn with more people and typically engage in new conversations. Finally, I keep an active blog and social media profile that allow me to exchange ideas with others and learn together.  Being a regular sharer online and in person is a key component to building a successful professional learning network.

What is the greatest benefit of your professional network?

The immediate access to a variety of perspectives and experiences from multiple educators from all over the world is one of the greatest benefits. Being able to ask a question or get new ideas from so many sources on demand ensures that you can learn something that is tried-and-true when you need to know it. Beyond access to crowd-sourced knowledge, the other main benefit of a professional network is the tribe to which you belong. Finding others with similar interests or experiences allows you to engage in a peer group that is like minded and supportive.

If you blog, what is the focus of it? How long have you been writing? Who is your audience?

The focus of my blog is all things education. While I write about everything from classroom practice to education policy, and all things in between, the majority of what I blog about is focused on actionable ideas that educators can put to use in their professional practice. I have been writing since 2011 and the target audience is PreK-12 educators.

How do you use social media to connect with other educators? What is your advice to teachers on social media and education?

I use social media as a way of staying in touch with the trends and current ideas in education, but also to share what I have learned with others. It provides an opportunity to think through your ideas by getting important feedback and conversing about topics with other educators who have a unique perspective. My advice to teachers on social media is that it provides an additional source of learning and opportunity to connect with others in your field; however, do not underestimate the value of facetime and in-person relationships you have or could develop along the way.

What advice in general do you have to teachers today?

Teaching can be a profession that is remarkably challenging and yet completely rewarding at the same time. And while it can feel like isolating work, because it’s mainly a solo endeavor, we are all in this together to ensure high levels of learning for all, and so we must collaborate to be most successful. My advice is to find colleagues with whom you can partner up on developing ideas for your professional practice and get feedback from to support one another in your work.

Describe a teacher who has had a significant impact on your professional development?

At my high school, I have the pleasure of working with a number of talented and influential educators, but one who has had a tremendous impact on my professional development is our science department chair—Don Pata. Don is an award-winning physics teacher and leader in the field of science education. He’s helped me to think about teaching in new and different ways while pushing my professional practice to be the best that it can be. Now, we work together as part of a statewide Math-Science Partnership Program in Michigan to provide professional development to hundreds of science teachers each summer through a project with our department of education.

What book would you recommend to teachers?

Dan Pink’s Drive is one of the most influential books I’ve read in my teaching career. It has changed the way I think about motivation of adults and kids, but moreover it has pushed me to consider my own professional practice and whether it provides students with the essential factors that lead to genuine intrinsic motivation: autonomy, purpose, and mastery.

Describe your experiences as “Teacher of the Year.”

Being selected as Michigan Teacher of the Year for 2014 was a tremendous honor. Out of the over 100,000 teachers in Michigan, the department of education selected me to represent what’s great about education in our state. This honor does not make the person “the best” teacher, but someone who represents what is best in teaching in the state. The experience is both a prestigious accolade and responsibility. With it comes a year of service with the state department of education providing professional development to schools around the state, but it also puts the Teacher of the Year into an advisory role on the State Board of Education. I had the opportunity to travel the state and visit many different schools, work with thousands of educators, and share my experiences in a way that informed decisions at the policy level. In addition to my duties as Teacher of the Year here in Michigan, this honor provided me the opportunity for some unique professional development at conferences around the country hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the chance to meet the President of the United States, and entry into a new professional learning network of state teachers of the year from around the nation.

What are you thoughts on My Town Tutors? Have you ever tutored or do you know teachers who tutor?

The concept of crowd-sourcing a vetted list of tutors available across the country who also have certified teaching credentials really does provide anyone looking for a tutor with a more reliable way to find someone to help them learn. Since I was a teenager, I have been tutoring others in math, science, and even in music. One of my first jobs was giving piano lessons and tutoring chemistry. I continued this work into college and still on occasion get requests to support family friends or other high school and college students in their science education.

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