Greg Grambo has spent over 41 years teaching STEM to students at the Louis Armstrong Middle School in East Elmhurst, which he described as a calling that goes beyond simply making students memorize curriculum.
The level of care Grambo puts into his students have left a mark across generations, according to speakers at the WNBC Star Teacher Award for Excellence in STEM Education on Thursday. They were part of the award presentation for the science instructor who not only holds a doctorate but spent time working with NASA.
But Grambo’s background in aeronautics is something he would rather not discuss, as it is less important that the role he wishes to play in his students’ lives, he said.
As part of the Star Teacher award, Grambo was given a plaque and $1,000 for classroom supplies.
“Every child is different, you have to find out what makes them tick. Sometimes you give out pieces of work and all you care about as a teacher is getting it back. Then you find out that when they go home they have to take care of their brother or grandmother, the piece of work that you give them is the most minimal thing in their life,” Grambo said.
Grambo focuses on helping kids finish their work at school, and when his students need something such as supplies, he sees it as his duty to step in and provide.
“It’s all about the kids, you’re here for them and there are other jobs you could take,” Grambo continued.
According to John Durso from WNBC, out of over 100 entries into the contest, only three across the city were chosen for the award which was given during an assembly at which was a surprise to Grambo who stood quietly at the wings of the auditorium until his name was called.
Normally, the lifelong educator would have a hand in every event at the school and found it strange that the purpose of the assembly was kept from him.
“There are times where there’s money gap, I’ve seen in the past where if a school can operate on a dollar, the following year you get 50 cents,” Grambo explained. “I’ve also seen that the better your children do the more funds get cut … You do get teacher’s choice money and you get a certain amount of money to buy supplies, but there’s a lot of times where you just want to help.”
Grambo explained that there is a student in one of his classes whose backpack was falling into disrepair with broken zippers and stitching falling away.
After rounds of stapling the backpack together, Grambo decided it was time to buy the student a new backpack.
“At what point do you just let him walk around like that, at some point the kids are just going to make fun of him or he’s going to just carrying things around. You just get him a backpack,” Grambo said, explaining that what he does is no different from other teachers at the school.
Telemundo 47’s Tairy Ynoa, also from East Elmhurst, presented the check alongside WNBC weatherman Dave Price and John Durso, with the award sponsored by Raymour & Flanigan.