INDEPENDENCE — Ben Gorman, 37, can be seen leading mock strikes on 16th and Monmouth streets just as readily as crawling on the floor of the auditorium stage with students. Gorman, a language arts teacher at Central High School for a decade, is deeply involved with both his peers and his students. That commitment played a factor in Gorman being named Secondary School Teacher of the Year by the Central Education Association at a May 15 ceremony at the Independence Elks Lodge. “I love watching young people get excited about things they didn’t know they would enjoy, like Shakespeare, contemporary poetry or science fiction,” Gorman said. The Central High School teacher also works as president of the CEA, and helped teachers through a particularly tough bargaining year. He said being named teacher of the year means a lot to him because the award comes from his colleagues. He has been in public education for 14 years, three as an educational assistant and one as a long-term substitute in addition to 10 years at Central. “The most frustrating part of my job isn’t in the classroom,” Gorman said. “It’s on my TV, in the statehouse, in Congress, in boardrooms of companies that want to make a profit on public education.” He said he and other teachers do amazing work in difficult conditions every day, but the public often disparages that work because political agendas focus on convincing them that public schools are terrible and tax dollars should be turned over to private companies. He said he is proud of public education. “We teach any kid who comes through the door,” Gorman said. “Lots of the countries that we are unfairly compared to only teach their elites, but we believe that education is the great equalizer.” In his classroom, students come from a variety of difficult circumstances, he said. “Kids who would be kicked out of the school systems in many countries, and here they accomplish remarkable things,” Gorman added. “In spite of all the garbage education initiatives sent to us from Salem or Washington, D.C., the students give me hope every day.” Gorman takes hope in the future he is helping to educate. “I may just be a small-town high school English teacher trying to show students where to put a comma, but I’m grateful to have a chance to play even a small part in improving our country and our world, one young citizen at a time,” he said.