Bob Grundfest

Warren, New Jersey, United States

Teacher, Professor

Madison Public Schools

Being a teacher, I think, is the most important paid job anyone can do. Although I have a curriculum I have to follow, I can be as creative as I want in the classroom, whether that means arranging desks in a circle for discussion, or having students write and perform plays to show their mastery of the information. I try to create a classroom energy that encourages participation, questioning and learning.

I am a history/social science professor at Middlesex County College, which has a 14,000 student enrollment; and a history teacher at Madison High School, part of the Madison Public School system with approximately 300 teachers and support staff. I enjoy both levels of teaching. At the college level I find students tend to be more subject-oriented, and I use that positive attitude to guide students to explore other aspects of the discipline outside of class. At the K-12 level, students are just learning both content and skills, so my challenge is to make sure they become effective, efficient learners and remain curious and interested in history.

Here’s just a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to determine if teaching is right for you.
• How to begin the process of becoming a teacher in your state or locality.
• How to break down information into manageable pieces so that students can master the information and skills.
• How to find a "voice" for your teaching that will enable you to use your style to engage students.
• How to write a resume and apply previous job skills to teaching.

Teaching is not for everyone, but if it is for you, then it's like a calling. You have to do it. My expertise is in being able to identify and develop talented people who would make highly effective teachers. I can focus on classroom management techniques, writing engaging, student-centered lesson plans and how to tap into that creative energy that makes a classroom a magical place for both student and teacher.

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Before I was a teacher I worked in stand-up comedy, advertising and television. I enjoyed my work writing recruitment ads and promoting television shows, but when I got the call from someone who wanted me to teach at their school, I immediately jumped at the chance. Now I do five stand-up shows a day in school.

In addition to my teaching in Madison and Middlesex, I taught Alternate Route to Teaching classes for New Jersey City University from 2003 to 2011. Essentially, people who were in other fields, but wanted to become teachers, enrolled in this program. It was my job to teach them how to become effective teachers, plan lessons, navigate the education system, write effective resumes, mentor them throughout their first year of teaching and instill in them that when the bell rings at the end of the day, it also heralds the beginning of the next day’s preparation. Effective teaching is a 70-hour-per week job.

I have earned awards from the Morris County Council of Education Associations and have been selected for competitive national seminars sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Culture Institute at Columbia University, the James Madison Institute at Princeton University and the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. However, some of the best rewards are those days when I feel on top of the world because the lessons I planned resulted in real, measurable student learning or students said they loved class.