For the second installment of HCST’s Black History Month celebration, and the first acknowledgement of February as Career & Technical Education (CTE) month, we recognize the work of Gregory Simon, Supervisor of the Academy for Design & Fabrication (D|Fab) at High Tech High School.
The eldest son of renowned African-American sculptor Henry Simon, and beloved German-American educator and artist Marilyn Simon, Gregory was raised in a home that valued the arts and the outdoors, where life lessons focused on integrity, compassion, and the consequences of one's actions. In this sense, it is no surprise that Mr. Simon is one of the venerated teachers and supervisors at High Tech, where he has spent his entire career in education.
While he wasn’t always an educator, school has always played an important role in Mr. Simon’s life. He discovered his passion for architecture in high school, where a drafting teacher recognized his talents and nominated him to compete in the NAACP’s Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO). In his first major competition, Mr. Simon took home the silver for the state of New Jersey. From here, Mr. Simon––or, simply “Simon,” as his students call him––went on to graduate with honors from the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 2001. Hand-picked by a professor to work at his firm fresh from architecture school, Simon spent several years in industry, working for firms such as Watts Architects, WORK Architecture + Design, and Perkins Eastman Architects.
Always reflective, Simon soon realized that his love for architecture was rooted in sharing his knowledge of the subject. He pivoted to a career in education in 2005, becoming the sole teacher for an emerging HCST program originally called the Academy of Architecture and Construction Trades, which came to be known as AACT. As AACT evolved and expanded, so did Mr. Simon’s position in the school district. As a lifelong learner committed to his community, Mr. Simon then pursued and earned his Master’s degree in administration and supervision from Saint Peter’s College.
As the current supervisor of the D|Fab Academy, Mr. Simon aims to maintain a balance between his role as administrator and classroom educator, putting students' needs and the student experience at the forefront of his work.
When asked to share some wisdom with the HCST community, Mr. Simon quoted Frederick Douglass who said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress." According to Mr. Simon, “This quote from Frederick Douglass has been the guiding light in my pursuit of success. My passion for architecture and education has been a challenging but enjoyable journey that continues to unravel. I encourage the students of HCST to find their passion, allow it to evolve into their purpose, and enjoy the journey of contributing to this world to make it a better place.”
HTHS senior Kirtan Patel appreciates Mr. Simon. He writes, "An Inspirer. A Motivator. An Engager. These three characteristics are just a short sample of the many you demonstrate with all of your students, including me, every single day. So I just want to thank you for all the times you've been there to guide me and for all the knowledge you have given me."
Outside of the classroom, Mr. Simon is a devoted husband to Albanery, a compassionate father to three daughters, and an avid outdoorsman with a passion for tournament kayak fishing. For the past sixteen years, Mr. Simon has made High Tech, and the greater HCST community, a better place through his leadership, patience, and deeply reflective nature.
In summary, Dr. Giammarella would like to add, “Mr. Simon, thank you for your leadership, for your inspiration, guidance, and encouragement with all our students.”