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‘I Had Great Teachers Growing Up Who Inspired Me With Curiosity and Encouraged Me to Do Whatever I Wanted in Life,’ Says NCSTA Ann and Dr. Bill Palmer Science Administration Distinguished Service Award Winner Cliff Hudson ‘16MSA

Cliff Hudson

Moon Man, The Rock Guy, Science Guy and Oreo Guy are just a few of the nicknames Cliff Hudson ‘16MSA has been given over the last few years from students in Martin County Schools. Oreo Guy comes from a cookie moon phase activity that Hudson presented to the students.

As K-12 science/STEM coordinator for Martin County Schools, Hudson works with science and STEM teachers in the district to provide resources and support. He also provides professional development to the staff, helps organize and coach science competitions and writes grants to provide materials and projects for students and teachers.

But what he enjoys most about his role is being able to model and co-teach lessons and activities with the teachers. Hudson says he enjoys co-teaching with the “great science staff and watching the students’ excitement as they discover and learn new things.”

That enthusiasm shows in his work and hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers as Hudson was presented with the 2020 North Carolina Science Teachers Association (NCSTA) Ann and Dr. Bill Palmer Science Administration Distinguished Service Award.

The award is given to a person exhibiting leadership in science education, contributing to improvements in science education, and excelling in the aspects of science education. The honor is determined by other science educators throughout North Carolina.

“It is a humbling experience to be awarded this state-level honor from the North Carolina Science Teachers Association. We are doing some great things in Martin County and I owe a lot of that success to the great science staff that I get a chance to work alongside every day,” Hudson said. “Not only do I get to work with great staff, I get to work with some fun and amazing students who brighten my day. My wife can tell when I am scheduled to work in a classroom before I leave for work in the morning just by extra peppiness. I truly love providing those opportunities for curiosity for our students.”

Hudson, who has served in Martin County Schools for 16 years, started his education career as a lateral entry science teacher when he graduated with his undergraduate degree in biology. He taught Earth/environmental science at Williamston High School for 10 years before transitioning into school administration. And for the past four years, he has served in his current role.

His mother was a huge inspiration for him wanting to go into education. She was an educator for more than 30 years and is retired now.

“Watching her prepare plans, talk about teaching and the things she was doing to help provide the best experiences for her students really made me want to do the same thing for other students,” he said.

As a teacher, Hudson knew he wanted to take on more leadership roles within his career and saw the positive impact a school administrator has on the school as a whole, which inspired him to pursue a Master of School Administration.

“I want to support teachers who, in return, support and promote a positive learning experience for students. As a teacher, I had a positive impact on roughly 150 students a year and I wanted to have a larger impact on students,” he said. “I get up every day and do what I do for the students. They are the reason we as educators do what we do.”

Hudson chose the NC State College of Education because of the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA), where he is a graduate of cohort four.

“NELA is one of the top programs in the nation that provides deep rooted practice in supporting leaders in Northeast North Carolina. NELA invests a lot of quality training and materials into its students to help them become successful at transforming schools in rural counties,” he said.

Hudson says the NELA program focuses on “building culture and relationships at the heart of the practice.” There is a quote from one of his professors that has always stuck with him and that was “culture eats strategy.”

“I can have the most beautiful school reform plan on paper but if the people don’t believe in it and the building-level culture isn’t where it needs to be, that plan is useless,” he said. “The year-long, real world experience NELA provided was instrumental in preparing for a building level leadership position.”

Growing up, Hudson loved science and was always fascinated with the discoveries and curious about how and why things are the way they are in the natural world. Having great science teachers, he wondered how “cool” it would be to teach students every day about the world around them and be able to have fun while doing it.

“Every day I get to play with rocks, microscopes, robots and electricity, walk outside and play in the dirt, look at plants and the sky, all while having fun doing it — it’s a way to live,” he said.