By NICOLE THOMAS
For Starkville Daily News
Starkville School District Teacher of the Year R.J. Morgan is the 2011 Teacher of the Year for Mississippi’s Third Congressional District and a finalist for Mississippi Teacher of the Year.
“It is an incredible honor to represent what I feel is the finest, most highly-qualified faculty in the state of Mississippi,” Morgan said. “Teaching is a profession that serves all aspects of a community. I’m appreciative of all that public education has given me over the years, and I’m honored to have this opportunity to serve others in the same way.”
“As an educator with over 30 years of experience, it is refreshing for me to see that young, inspiring and dedicated teacher that gives to students and a district in and outside the classroom simply to benefit the future of young people in a community,” said Superintendent Judy Couey. “R.J. Morgan is that type of educator.”
Morgan began his teacher career in the Starkville School District at Starkville High School in 2007. With a degree in Social Studies and a background in journalism, Morgan has taught advanced and regular classes in World History, World Geography, and Mississippi Studies, and even Financing Your Future, while also taking on the additional duties of yearbook and school newspaper sponsor.
“I try to teach my students the value and power of communication,” Morgan said. “It’s that connection, that flow of information that makes teaching worthwhile to me. In my history classes, it means being their tour guide through the complex and sometimes-gruesome history of the world. With our student publications, it means trying to teach them how to do more than just write and take pictures. I want them to learn how to write and take pictures of things that matter. Things people need to know.”
“It doesn’t take long to see his rapport with the students that he teaches, but his genuine concern for every student and their positive reaction to him is seen as well,” Couey said. “He is able to teach the lessons not covered in a curriculum by modeling stellar character traits and accountability.
“Mr. Morgan is seen at every kind of event in which his students participate. He is a person that volunteers rather than being ‘drafted’ in assisting with the events at Starkville High School,” Couey added.
Morgan turned around the Jacket Buzz school paper to a profit maker while providing it free to students and increased yearbook sales by more than 20 percent.
“This again was a non-curriculum lesson in business learned by his students. His students appreciate the reward of achievement through work,” Couey said.
“Nothing prepares a student more for life after high school than working on student media publications,” Morgan said. “The responsibilities of selecting content, interviewing people, hitting deadlines, and finding ways to fund themselves make these students much more suited to the pressures of college and beyond. They may not all go into journalism, but they will certainly carry those skills over into whatever profession they chose, and I feel pretty good about my part in that.”
“Mr. R.J. Morgan’s dedication to his students as a classroom teacher and his willingness to “take that extra step” to improve any facet of the educational experience make him an outstanding representative for our district and our state as a leading educator,” Couey said.
Morgan will attend the Mississippi Teacher of the Year Awards Program today and Friday in Jackson. He was honored with an ice cream party sponsored by Blue Bell at Starkville High School Wednesday.