“When she’s frustrated she keeps trying and she never gives up.”
Such heartfelt and powerful words!
They were spoken by Janice Maldonado, a third-grader at Phillip Showell Elementary School about the school’s Teacher of the Year, Christine Morrison. Fellow third-grader Julie Ross added, “She always tries with us. She doesn’t just say, ‘Stop, you are doing it wrong.’”
Ross added that Morrison makes math fun by letting the students use the “whiteboard” and do math problems, and said they also learned a new word, “array.” Maldonado concluded that Morrison explains things “until we get the hang of it. And if we don’t finish it, we work on it the next day.”
Morrison, who has been at Phillip Showell for the past 18 years, is the math intervention teacher and special education coordinator for the school. She taught mostly fourth- and fifth-graders in special education before being assigned to the math intervention position this year.
She has a dual role in the school, as her mornings consist of teaching second- through fifth-graders, assisting them in getting where they need to be in math, and, in the afternoons, she completes her special education coordinator duties.
Morrison said she enjoys her new role. “It’s been fun, I have enjoyed it. Teaching has changed from when I started,” explained Morrison, adding that it is more individualized and more centered around what each student needs to excel.
Morrison grew up in Wilmington, Del., and attended University of Delaware, with a dual major of special and regular education. She taught in the Mount Pleasant School District for a year, taught in the Woodbridge School District for two years, and then she and her family were transferred to Pennsylvania, where she taught for seven years before coming back to Delaware and starting at Phillip Showell 18 years ago.
She said she always knew she would be a teacher.
“Oh, yeah – I played school, I had the high heels, we did fire drills, the whole thing,” she joked, adding that it was a sixth-grade science teacher who really propelled her interest in becoming a teacher. “In sixth grade, my teacher – he made school fun, especially in a subject I didn’t like and my first job [in the Mount Pleasant District] was working beside him, the person I had wanted to become,” she said, adding that it seemed to come full circle.
Morrison explained that special-education instruction has changed over the years, and for the better.
“It used to be that you were pulled out and went for help, but now there is more inclusion, more collaboration, more team teaching. Some still get pulled out, but there is more of a push in. It definitely changed for the better, and it’s win-win.”
During “intervention,” students are not missing any instruction time. The students that are above benchmarks, or grade level, get extra time to be challenged, and the students that are below benchmarks, or grade level, get extra time for instruction. Morrison explained that it allows more individualized attention to be given to each student, no matter where they are on the spectrum.
“Everyone has high expectations here, and that breeds positivity,” she noted. “All of our children do very well on the state testing, and scores improve every year. We don’t settle for less than their best.”
As for being honored as Teacher of the Year for the second time, Morrison said she is “honored.”
“I am very proud. Phillip Showell has some wonderful teachers, and we really work as a team. Everybody cares about kids. There are lots of ‘teachers of the year’ in this building. We inspire one another here.”
And the teachers are not just inspiring each other. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, both Maldonado and Ross quickly answered, “A teacher.”