The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM) is happy to continue its series “Behind Our TRUTH,” which tells the captivating stories of the people who contribute to ensuring our mission of TRUTH – Tolerance I Respect I Unity I Trust I Her-His-Their-Story – stands tall.
For this edition, we spoke with PMPM trustee, Paul Gray, Ed.D., recent recipient of the E. Glenadine Gibb Achievement Award. The honor recognizes members of the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics (TCTM) for improvements to education at the state and national levels. It’s the latest in a remarkable career, topped by Gray’s current role as president of The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), a volunteer-led organization supporting leaders in education across the United States, Canada and abroad.
The Teacher’s Teacher
Paul was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Drawn to science from an early age, his high school dream was to become a storm chaser, the outdoors his laboratory and anticipating weather his challenge. This led him to the University of Oklahoma (OU), a degree in meteorology and a change of heart along the way.
While at OU, one of his professors received a grant from the National Science Foundation, and Paul became a research assistant on the project. Called EarthStorm, the program brought middle school science teachers from across Oklahoma to the campus for three weeks of immersive studies on meteorology, agriculture and soil science. Tasked with troubleshooting technology issues, Paul’s ability to simplify and quickly resolve issues was noticed by attendees. Within a week, he was approached by a group of educators who urged him to go into teaching.
“I was one of those kids who wanted to play school whenever there was a break or summer rolled around – and I always had to be the teacher,” said Paul. “I just liked it, found it fun and the desire never left me. In my senior year, as I was finishing up my meteorology degree, I felt what I really wanted to do was to teach.”
When Paul graduated in 1995, the Federal government – which employs the majority of meteorologists – put a hiring freeze in effect, dramatically limiting jobs in the field. That was fine for Paul, who immediately accepted a position as an eighth-grade science teacher. Two years later, invigorated by teaching but tiring of Oklahoma winters, he returned to Houston as a math teacher, a move that would further his passion and shape his career.
After eight years in the classroom, inspired by collaborating with other educators and wanting to achieve more, Paul moved into a curriculum specialist role. Now 12 years later, he is the chief curriculum officer for Cosenza & Associates, supporting and developing educational resources for school districts. Teachers and mentors along the way taught him the value of professional organizations. A trusted mentor encouraged Paul to become involved in the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics. He would eventually lead that organization as president, a volunteer post that he has held since 2021.
“I’ll always view myself as a teacher, but instead of working with kids, I can now teach the teachers. And the power this organization has to support them and improve education at scale produces very rewarding results.”
Lessons in Provincetown
Paul met his husband, Gary Cosenza, in Houston and they’ve now been together 19 years. Gary was raised in Buffalo, had traveled throughout the northeast and was particularly familiar with New England. Paul, who hadn’t ventured far as a child, found Oklahoma to be an adventure. So when Gary asked if he’d ever been to Provincetown – and Paul asked, “What’s that?” – his partner’s immediate response was, “You’re getting on a plane.”
“It was Fourth of July weekend and we came in on the ferry out of Boston,” recalled Paul. “When we pulled around Long Point and into the harbor, my jaw dropped. The town pulls you onto shore and I fell in love instantly. It was a magical paradise, and after learning about the calendar events, we were back the next summer.”
One-week stays turned to two weeks then to three weeks, until finally, the couple bought a house in the West End. Six years later, they now split their time between Provincetown and Dallas. Yet, there was another impression that stuck in Paul’s mind from that first arrival.
“I saw the Monument, and because I like architecture, thought it was so cool. We eventually made our way up the hill and into the Museum. The way it showcased and told the stories of the English whaling settlers and the Portuguese fishermen was so instructive. We returned for the Wampanoag exhibit and learned about their relationship with the Pilgrims from an Indigenous perspective. Those layers of storytelling help paint the fuller picture of Provincetown.”
Paul’s passion for education, and his experience as a member on other boards, caught the attention of his West End neighbors and others active at PMPM. Not surprisingly, when approached two years ago to join the PMPM Board of Trustees, Paul leaped at the chance.
“The museum and monument are among our community’s best assets, simply because of their power for telling the stories of Provincetown. With our rich history, and PMPM’s truthful approach, there are still experiences that need to be told. We have our Bulgarian population. We have our Jamaican population. And we really need to showcase the contributions of Provincetown’s women – a fascinating but under-told story.