Elias J. Gorman: Teacher Spotlight

We are proud to present CSU double alumnus EJ Gorman for the May Teacher Spotlight!
Elias J. (EJ) Gorman teaches Social Studies at Bay High School in Bay Village, Ohio. Gorman is a double alumnus of Cleveland State University: he received his BA in History and Comprehensive Social Studies in 1990 and his MA in History in 2001.  At Bay, Gorman has been teaching AP US History since 1996 and Modern World History since 1997.  In 2013 he was among 30 high school teachers selected to participate in “The Age of Reagan” Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History in California.  Raised in Northeast Ohio, Gorman shared these thoughts about his path to teaching: “Growing up mostly in NE Ohio, with lots of time returning to Queens and Long Island, I gathered an innate interest in the history of my family, region, nation, and world. While getting past the initial frustration of multiple interpretations of facts, I ultimately concluded that is the greatest feature of the study of history. As a teacher I have truly tried not to stray too far from the wonderment I experienced as the background of so many places, events, groups, and individuals help me continually revisit the most dynamic subject; History.”
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My journey in the non-teaching world showed me I excelled most within instructional settings. I also found that I truly enjoyed the process of academic interaction within the subjects of History, Political Science, and Literature, hence, when I went to college I already knew by prior experience that being a teacher was my calling.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most satisfying moments of my job are when I can see students making multiple connections to relevant classroom topics being discussed. I find it even more rewarding when their scholarship leads me to revisit older academic assumptions I held to be valid.
Equally rewarding to me have been the professional opportunities I have experienced via the National Endowment for the Humanities, College Board, and Gilder Lehrman seminars for American History teachers. This summer I was fortunate enough to be selected for the NEH seminar dealing with southern California during the Cold War in Long Beach, CA. As with past GL and NEH seminars, I fully anticipate an array of enriching experiences and new sources of professional contacts that will help me maintain a dynamic array of classroom strategies for the upcoming academic year. My experiences at College Board sponsored seminars for AP US History have truly opened doors for me, and by extension, my pupils in the productive ways to analyze and write using primary sources. The chance to be an AP US History test reader, and be exposed to hundreds of exceptional teachers and professors in 2001 was a highlight that continues to pay dividends for all my students—whether or not they’ve been in my AP class.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
Currently I find it ever more challenging to both keep current and efficiently incorporate new technology into the classroom. I do wonder at times if the growth of online resources will become too much to effectively integrate into instruction. At the same time, I am grateful for the new keys technology has put in my hands to help students unlock doors to greater enrichment.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
I most enjoy having students create their own Document Based Questions while utilizing web-based primary sources. This activity requires an engagement in multiple sources of primary documents that address the historical question they created. This strategy has been particularly useful for my AP US History students and throughout my career in helping students prepare for the Advanced Placement U.S. History College Board exam.
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
There’s no substitute for student teaching. While I regularly advocate for encouraging future teachers of Social Studies to take more classes in their academic major, I also encourage newcomers to embrace every opportunity to grow in an instructional environment. The process of improving, refining, and renewing can’t start too soon, and most significantly, will continue for years.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
Don’t let doomsayers talk you out of it, but at the same time one should seriously consider learning a foreign language, or getting certified in Special Education, and be open to changing your address.