‘Every class is a surprise’ with physics teacher Jeff Cramer

The Southerner

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By Robert Brown

On any given afternoon on the C300 hall of Henry W. Grady High School, you might expect to hear a variety of ordinary sounds: the shutting of a door, the squeaking of rubber shoes on the tiles, or a video being played for a class. If you listen closely, you might even hear the shuffling of a slinky, the whir of a motorized toy car, or even the musical notes of a nose flute. No? Don’t be so sure.

If you ask any student at Grady High School, they’ll tell you that Jeff Cramer, Physics teacher and Cross Country coach extraordinaire, is the epitome of creative teaching. “Every class is a surprise, and Mr. Cramer loves incorporating hands on activities in his lessons, which makes them great,” said Carter Guensler, one of Cramer’s students and cross country runners. “You can tell he likes what he does. Mr. Cramer has a drive for teaching and coaching, and it’s easy to distinguish.”

Jeff Cramer has taught at Grady High School for approximately 20 years, although he’s not positive. “I started teaching in the fall of ‘93, or maybe it was ‘94. I’m not quite sure.” said Cramer.

“Mr. Cramer’s class is a lot of work. He pushes us to do our best, because he wants us to all get a good score on the AP exam. However, the class is also tons of fun. Mr. Cramer always makes jokes, which are usually extremely nerdy and physics related,” said Zoe Schneider, a student in Cramer’s AP physics class.

No matter how long he’s taught at Grady, however, Cramer has become a teaching artisan. “It seems like he has each lesson planned down to the second. Whether it’s important information, or an observation, or even a cheesy joke, he knows what to say,” said Guensler.

Even if the pun Cramer might pull is groan-worthy, he never fails to score a laugh with his class. “He’s always sassy, in a charismatic sort of way,” said Guensler.

Before Jeff Cramer taught at Grady, though, he took on a very serious role; he worked with teens in the Dekalb county juvenile courts, and later in an alternative program at Smith High School (an Atlanta Public School that has since been torn down). “I worked with quite a variety of children. Kids in for auto theft, kids in for custody for either abuse or divorce, the whole spectrum. Some were completely blameless, while some were in for serious reasons, sitting in the same room as one another.” Cramer said.

A big part of Cramer’s job was finding children around Atlanta and helping them, but the hard work took it’s toll. “I just thought one day, why should I have to go out and search for these kids? Instead, if I taught in a school, the troubled kids would come to me, not the other way around. If I were to be true to myself, I’d need to go be a teacher.” Cramer said. “The kids were always complaining about their teachers, so I could help solve the problem by trying to be a good teacher.”

So in 1980, Jeff Cramer got his teaching certificate, and then went on to receive his masters degree at Georgia State. Before he taught at Grady, Cramer taught chemistry at Walker High School. “I’ve taught all sorts of science, but chemistry and physics are my main focus.” said Cramer.

Apart from teaching, Cramer has also been involved with Grady High School through his own family. Before he made the decision to come to Grady, he had a discussion with his daughter, who was attending the high school at the time. “I asked her if it was okay with her if I came to teach at her school. I took her opinion of me very seriously. She said that if her friends were alright with me, then it was fine. If they complained, she didn’t want me there. And I thought that was very honest of her.” Cramer said.

Although he never got the chance to teach his daughter, Cramer’s son was in both his first year physics and AP physics classes. “He had some trouble staying awake in class. One of my best teaching stories is about him. It was in one of our first classes together. All of the girls were raising their hands and calling me ‘dad’. At first I was confused, but then I realized they were doing it to help my son not feel embarrassed about it.” Cramer said.

Having taught physics curriculum for so long, Cramer knows how to captivate an audience, even when he’s presenting dull or dry material. As a demonstration of harmonics, Cramer might unexpectedly pull out a yellow nose flute in the middle of class and play a portion of some classical orchestration.

The demonstration isn’t just for the laughs; Cramer feels that anything can be used as a teaching tool. His combination of serious instruction and laid back humor is what makes Cramer the great teacher that he is. “I feel like he’s the best person for the job,” said Guensler. “He knows what he’s doing.”

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