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Teacher of the Month: Brian Abramowitz

Teacher-Of-The-Month-Brian-Abramowitz-pic-2-2-28-17.pngNMSI’s Teacher of the Month is a new series that celebrates our amazing teachers, consultants and mentors for their work in and out of the classroom. In February, we sat down with Brian Abramowitz, an AP Biology teacher at Uplift Luna Preparatory in Dallas, to hear his thoughts on science education and how he inspires his students.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
The reason I became a teacher is far less inspirational as the reason I continue to teach. I continue to teach because there’s always more to learn. I embody being a lifelong learner, professionally and personally. I desire to use the most effective pedagogical strategies I can find and I actively search out resources, collaborative opportunities and implement evaluative feedback. I periodically videotape myself teaching in order to sharpen my craft, making me a better teacher for all my scholars. I want to continue to instill my views of science being all around us to my scholars so they could always be inquirers throughout their lives and generations to come. By doing so, I can transform their curiosity into expertise and my scholars may be the next inventors or problem solvers within the changing world. I also continue to teach because of the pride I feel when scholars submit their best work. For example, when I had scholars create a video describing the history of DNA, including the experiments that led to the discovery of it. Scholars videos exceeded my expectations and, as a result, I shared their work with numerous colleagues. The video showed their growth and how teaching one concept can be duplicated in multiple ways.
Tell me about your background in education.
I graduated undergraduate from Syracuse University with bachelor degrees in earth sciences and secondary education. During this time, I had completed two student- teaching experiences. One was at a suburban high school and the other was located in an urban middle school, where I taught 9th grade earth science and 8th grade science, respectively. Upon graduation, I spent a year substitute teaching, strengthening my classroom management skills. Then I had completed my master’s degree in special education, where my student teaching had turned into a full- time position as a 6th grade special education teacher. After finishing out the year, I had moved to Uplift Luna to teach biology and AP biology.
Why do you think science education is important?
Often scholars are only exposed to classroom science. However, by stressing and emphasizing the real- world application of science, their minds can be open to so much more. Educators have a tremendous responsibility to expose scholars to how truly impactful the field of science can be. Science education can bridge the gap to demonstrate how Luna’s scholars can be the next generation of scientists.
What do you think is the most valuable skill students learn through AP Biology?
Scholars leave AP biology with a tremendous sense of accomplishment through their growth in independence. Scholars enrolled in AP biology as 9th graders throughout the year constantly surprise both themselves, classmates, myself and the administration with what they are able to achieve.  (Editor’s note: In most schools, AP biology is taught to 11th and 12th graders.)
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
The relationships I have developed with scholars is by far the most impactful part of why I look forward to coming to work. Last year, I had received a note from a scholar during teacher appreciation week. The letter went in depth explaining how I was the first teacher that she had ever trusted. 
Tell us about a student who impressed you.
In AP biology, a 9th grade scholar is not only meeting expectations, but exceeding them. She goes above and beyond by facilitating the learning of others. When her classmates have questions, she is the one always taking the opportunity to support and enhance their learning by breaking down the content in a way that is accessible to them. Additionally, she has such a strong desire to learn and become a better scholar.
Tell me about an “aha” moment you’ve had with a student.
I am taking almost every opportunity to support scholars both inside and outside the classroom. I have seen students everywhere from basketball and soccer games to their quinceañeras (Latin American-based religious and social celebrations of girls’ 15th birthdays). When students see me go the extra mile to support them in something extracurricular or something culturally important to them, their effort changes. Once I hear the “Wow, mister, you’re really here,” that at times can be the “aha” moment that transforms a scholar’s view of who you are and what you bring to each lesson with respect to the content, as well as treasuring who they are as people.
Tell me about your favorite lesson to teach.
When teaching symbiosis, or the relationship between living organisms, the lesson starts by talking about the interactions that celebrities share. For example, the hook involves Jay-Z & Beyoncé, Selena & Justin as well as Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher. With the use of celebrities, scholars were actively engaged in the rest of the lesson, constantly coming up with their own examples of mutualistic, communalistic and parasitic relationships.