Our 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year: Mr. Gurkin!

Congratulations to Mr. Gurkin, the Apex High School Teacher of the Year! Mr. Gurkin teaches physics, calculus based mechanics, and physical science here at Apex. He is extremely involved in school life and dedicates his time to supporting the arts, athletics, and academics of Apex. This is his fifth year of teaching, and over the past four years he has grown into a teacher and person that both the staff and students of AHS absolutely adore. Read the interview below to get to know Mr. Gurkin better and see what he has to say about being chosen as the Teacher of the Year!

Q: How did you become interested in teaching?

A: I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in middle school. I’ve always had a gift for explaining things to people, and in middle school I thought I was going to teach music. My grandmother was a music teacher and an art teacher, my aunt was an English teacher, and I felt like music was where I was headed. But then I hit sciences in high school, and I was like no, I really like physics and chemistry, so that’s the road I took.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

A: It sounds cheesy, but really my favorite thing is when I see students actually understanding the stuff that I’m teaching. Watching the lightbulb come on is the cliché way to say it. The other thing I enjoy, which probably runs parallel to the first, is being able to talk to students about life and impact their lives outside of just my content area.

Q: What is the hardest obstacle you’ve faced as a teacher?

A: Honestly the hardest obstacle as a teacher is overcoming when students don’t want to learn. Not in a mean or malicious sense, just there are days where students come in and their minds aren’t in a place for them to learn, and it happens to everybody. Like if I have to sit in a meeting all day, there are days I don’t want to sit in a meeting. Overcoming that barrier is the hardest thing.

Q: What is your best memory from teaching at Apex High School?

A: I think this is going to end up having to be it for a little while. Before this, it would probably be winning the teacher talent show a few years ago.

Q: Is there any one thing that you are proudest of accomplishing as a teacher? If so, what?

A: I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing as a teacher. To me, I don’t feel like I’m going above and beyond. I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, so it’s hard for me to look at it and go “Oh I’m really proud because I did this extra big thing!” I guess I would have to say just the fact that in four years I have become a person that both the students want to be in my class and that my faculty/peers respect me enough to make me Teacher of the Year.

Q: What is your best advice for other teachers and educators?

A: The best advice I have is remember that your students are people, too. We often think about that in reverse. Sometimes teachers get frustrated because they think students think of them as just a teaching machine, but that goes in reverse. Students have lives, too. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes of teaching than just passing on information, like understanding and legitimately forming relationships. If you form relationships with students and you get to know them, you will be a much more effective and successful teacher.

Q: How does it feel to have been selected as the Teacher of the Year?

A: Because I’m selected from among my own peers, like there’s no external selection process, it feels good to be chosen by my peers as the Teacher of the Year of this school. I appreciate their acknowledgement of my contribution to the school.

Q: How do you plan to celebrate being Teacher of the Year?

A: I don’t really have a plan to celebrate at the moment. There’s a Teacher of the Year banquet, so I guess that will be the first piece of the celebration. Today I’ll celebrate by finishing doing grades for the semester, so it’s not really a celebration, but it’s what comes next. I guess the whole idea is I got the award by doing what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, so I’ll just keep doing that.

Mr. Gurkin truly encompasses what it means to be a great educator. He is so kind, talented, helpful, and above all, passionate about teaching. I am fortunate enough to be in his class this semester and am so happy to see him recognized for all of his hard work and dedication to our school. After one quarter in his class I can already tell that every student who has Mr. Gurkin as teacher leaves his class a better person than they were when they came in. Congratulations Mr. Gurkin, and thank you so much for all you do! We love you and are so lucky to have you at AHS!

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