Master of Arts in Teaching, 2010
School of Education
April 1, 2014
Physics Teacher Mark Greenberg Receives MIT Inspirational Teacher Award
Mark Greenberg graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
After a number of years working for Ernst & Young and as an Independent Consultant, Mark pursued his lifelong dream to teach high school physics.
Mark Greenberg has been teaching full time since 2009 and has been a Physics Teacher at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School since 2010.
My dad always tells me, “Prepare to be lucky.” For a long time I didn’t quite understand what he meant. After earning my credential at UCI, I was beyond ready to put my physics teaching to work. The slumping economy, however, had different plans. After a year of teaching subjects other than physics, I submitted an application to Palos Verdes Peninsula High School for a position to teach Physics, AP Physics B, and AP Physics C. With limited experience, I was hired on the spot. I may never know why they selected me, but I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.
As I was touring the campus, the Associate Principal gave one piece of advice. He said, “Have fun and be yourself.” He meant it, too. I’ve never been encouraged to be myself in a professional setting. Isn’t that the dream? To be accepted for who you are? I got lucky. I found a place where I can be myself. When you get the opportunity to be yourself, you are at your best. As a teacher, when you’re at your best, you bring out the best in your students, too. What can I say? I got lucky.
Since Mark’s arrival at Peninsula High School, the Physics enrollment has grown to over 400 students per year. Next year, more than 300 students have opted for AP Physics.
The change in AP Physics C enrollment has been incredible. When I began four years ago, the Physics C class was about 25 students. They were the best and brightest – the class was reserved for students on an extreme honors track. In comparison, more than 80 students have already signed up for next year. It’s been my dream to make difficult subject matter accessible to as many students as are willing to take on the challenge. The students trust that I’ll make an extraordinarily difficult course into something engaging and manageable. It means the world to me that my students find a new level of confidence and passion within themselves.
In 2012, Mark introduced Link Crew to Peninsula High School. Link Crew is a high school transition program for all incoming freshmen and transfer students. Under Mark’s direction, upperclassmen are selected as leaders and mentors for the new students. For the past two years, Freshmen Orientation, classroom activities, and freshmen events have been entirely organized and run by high school juniors and seniors.
In March 2014, Mark Greenberg received the MIT Inspirational Teacher Award. The award is given to approximately 30 high school teachers across the nation each year. As part of her nomination of Mark, MIT Sophomore Victoria Tam shared the following: Thank you for always being there to listen to me. Nowadays, time is such a valuable resource. Even though I am no longer your student, I am grateful that you are still readily available to offer your opinion on any issues I have. You have taught me to be a better listener and to make myself available to listen to others. Thank you also for believing in me. You have made my transition to MIT a lot more manageable. But more importantly, you have helped me gain confidence in myself, which will have a lasting impact not just at MIT, but in life.
When I tell someone that I’m a teacher, they often ask, ‘What do you teach?’ The answer you’d expect is “Physics.” In reality, I teach people. To me, my students are young adults. At the ages of 16, 17 and 18, they are already making big life decisions. Physics is simply the delivery system to bring out the best in the students. Physics offers itself to wonderful labs, which bring out curiosity, questioning, teamwork, and high level, analytical thinking. The class is about trying new ideas. It’s about thinking in way that you’ve never thought before. It’s about making mistakes on your way to a solution. And it’s about overcoming your self-doubt when presented with something that appears insurmountable. If my students find a renewed sense of self-confidence and find passion in life, then we all have succeeded.