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April 1, 2004
Vol. 61
No. 7

Meet ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator for 2003

Meet ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator for 2003- thumbnail
Jennifer Morrison is passionate about teaching all students. She is also passionate about teaching other teachers. What fascinates her, she says, is the “teaching moment.” She's had plenty of opportunities to experience those teaching moments as the language arts department chair at Piedmont Open IB Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, and as a teacher trainer with the North Carolina Teacher Academy.
Her commitment to being both a teacher and a teacher leader is part of the reason Jennifer Morrison was chosen as the winner of ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) for 2003. Morrison, who is a Fulbright scholar and has earned National Board certification, was selected for helping students become independent learners and thinkers and for her commitment to her students and their families. Morrison emphasizes the importance of making a personal connection with students and understanding their cultural backgrounds, particularly students who are English language learners and students with backgrounds of generational poverty. At Piedmont, she is known for using her classroom as a living laboratory for best practices and for sharing research-based knowledge with her colleagues.
Morrison is also committed to encouraging teacher leadership. She has been a teacher trainer and curriculum writer with the North Carolina Teacher Academy (NCTA) for several years. She instructs North Carolina teachers attending summer NCTA institutes and writes curriculum for NCTA trainers to use with institute participants. She also launched a professional development series for language arts teachers at Piedmont, focusing on current research on best practices in teaching reading and writing.
Morrison emphasizes the importance of encouraging young educators to develop a vision for their own teaching so they can become master teachers. “I worry about telling teachers to ‘use this textbook’ or ‘do it exactly this way’ because it kills the potential for teacher leadership,” Morrison told the OYEA selection committee. “Teachers determine the climate of the school. They are close to the classroom and the people we serve. Leadership has to come from teachers.”
Morrison is also a teacher consultant with the National Writing Project in Charlotte, North Carolina. She designs and conducts writing workshops for teachers attending local National Writing Project conferences and participates in a teacher research group with the goal of publishing classroom findings. Her commitment to teaching writing is obvious in her own classroom, where last year she started having her students write in their journals every day. By the end of the year, many students had amassed almost 400 pages of journal writing. Students remarked that they had learned about themselves and that writing had become much easier for them because of the journal experience.
According to Tom Spivey, the Piedmont principal who nominated Morrison for the award, students and their families, especially those disenfranchised from public education, have always been at the heart of Morrison's efforts. For example, Morrison built bonds with the families of limited-English-proficient students by initiating Piedmont's first Hispanic Parents' Night.
ASCD is proud to name Jennifer Morrison as the 2003 Outstanding Young Educator.

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