I don’t know what motivates individuals to select the professions they ultimately wind up with. I would venture to guess it is often a combination of one’s talents and interests, money, and job availability.
I would also be so bold to say that many of the individuals who choose teaching as a profession choose to do so because they were once influenced by a great teacher themselves. I know this is the case for me.
In June 2002, I graduated from Spaulding High School. I was among hundreds of students who had Mrs. Martha Morris as their American literature English teacher. As I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I considered myself fortunate to know exactly where I would be attending college the following fall and what career I would be pursuing. I fell in love with literature in Mrs. Morris’ English class, and I knew I wanted to devote my life to bringing the love of literature to other high school teachers.
I went on to graduate from the University of Maine at Farmington in 2006 with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education and a concentration in English. Two years ago I completed my master’s degree in education; I am going on my eighth year of teaching high school English in central Maine and, oddly enough, I have learned a lot about Mrs. Morris during this time.
I have learned that Mrs. Morris valued her students’ learning more than her own teaching. There is no doubt Mrs. Morris loved literature — she brought it to life, and she made it meaningful — but she gave us more than a memorable experience reading “The Crucible.” She gave us the gift of analysis and critical thinking. These gifts were far more valuable than just enjoying a novel; these gifts opened doors for us, so that we could become thinkers and problem solvers in life.
When we wrote essays, Mrs. Morris didn’t just teach us proper comma usage and quotation integration, she gave us the gift of communication so that we could express our ideas and contribute to our work teams, our families and our communities. When we circled up to read poetry, she didn’t just help us decipher the words laid upon a page, she taught us to choose our words carefully, to be mindful when we speak and write, and to share with others our raw emotions.
Mrs. Morris instilled in me a passion for teaching and learning, but she also gave me the skills to become who I wanted to be. As it turns out, I wanted to be Mrs. Morris.
Mrs. Morris excited her students. She didn’t mold us; she helped us mold ourselves. She allowed us laughter, and often laughed right along with us. She allowed questions and frustrations, and she helped us to navigate through them.
I’ve learned these things about Mrs. Morris because I’ve learned that this is the true art of teaching. You can’t just love your content, you have to love your career. You have to know how to give every student everything they need, and Mrs. Morris did.
When I heard about Mrs. Morris’ sudden passing, I was heartbroken. I felt like a security blanket from my past had been pulled out from under me, but I began to see I was not the only one touched by Mrs. Morris.
She may have influenced my choice in profession, but there can be no doubt she influenced others just as profoundly. My high school friends and I began to recall the memorable times we’d share in her classroom: acting out Puritan witch trials, sitting around in a circle debating Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” rolling with laughter as Mrs. Morris allowed my talented classmate to illustrate the next installment of his comic strip (that magically included all of the class members in it) on the chalkboard — and of course, we will never forget Mrs. Morris’ infamous request to “cease verbiage.”
For 30 years Mrs. Morris shared her talents and gave her gift to the students of Spaulding High School. A few years ago, I received a piece of mail which contained a poem Mrs. Morris had written as tribute to her former students who went on to become high school English teachers themselves. She had graciously added my name to the dedication. I felt honored to be remembered by her, so it is important to me today to remember our beloved Mrs. Morris — and to thank her. Mrs. Morris inspired her students to be great at whatever they became; I can only hope to some day be as great as Mrs. Morris.
Rosemary Fecteau is a graduate of Spaulding High School now teaching in central Maine.MORE IN Commentary
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- MEDIA GALLERY