Edison Elementary third-grade teacher RobbiJo Morgan might surprise some of her students with how far she's willing to go to engage them in learning.
Morgan, a 20-year teaching veteran who was named Minot Education Association teacher of the year last week, remembers one former student who was a reluctant reader.
"I had to do a cartwheel to make the kid read, but I did it," said Morgan.
RobbiJo Morgan, a third-grade teacher at Edison Elementary, is the Minot Education Association teacher of the year. Pictured with her is her daughter, Bridgette Morgan.
Morgan said it is a great honor to be named teacher of the year. Years ago, it was one she didn't expect she'd ever receive. Years ago, when she served as president of the MEA, she picked up a plaque for an awards ceremony naming the teacher of the year. Her son asked her why her name wasn't on it and Morgan replied that not just everybody gets to have her name on that plaque. Her son reminded her of that conversation last week when she won the award.
Morgan said she's also grateful to all of the local organizations and merchants that contributed prizes for teacher of the year. Her friends are hoping that she will use some of the gift cards to restaurants to treat them to a lunch out, Morgan said. The staff will host a party for Morgan this week when school starts Tuesday.
Last week Morgan and her fellow teachers were busy trying to get their classrooms ready for a school year that will be unlike any other. Morgan, like many of her fellow teachers and students, was displaced by the flood and has been staying with a friend at Rice Lake.
Teachers at Edison know that their young students are likely to be as stressed by the flooding as they are. Even if their own families weren't displaced, their parents might be helping someone who was. Morgan said that teachers and administrators at Edison have decided not to send home a lot of worksheets with children this year, but will try to do as much as possible in school. They don't want to add to the stress level of the children and their families by adding a lot of homework to the mix.
Morgan always tries to bring that personal touch to the students she teaches, even during a normal year.
Morgan said she tries to get to know each of her students and engage them on a personal level. Her third-graders hear all about Morgan's two dogs, about what her kids, Brady and Bridgette, did when they were the age of the third-graders, and about Morgan's hobies.
"They get to know me and I get to know them," she said.
Morgan, who grew up in Grenora and eventually married her high school sweetheart, Brad, started out in the Minot Public Schools as a teacher of the visually impaired and then switched over after five years to regular classroom education. She holds a double major in special education and elementary education. Eventually she'd like to return to the university to get a master's degree, but right now she is focused on the needs of her two teenagers. She thinks there might be more time for that when her kids are older.
Morgan has also held a number of offices in local and state organizations over the years, including serving as president and vice president of the Minot Education Association at different points and as the Edison representive on the arts council. Morgan also served on the state science standards assessment team.
Morgan has taught at Edison for about 10 years, but prior to that had made several moves between buildings in the district. She also taught at North Plains, Perkett and Roosevelt elementaries, and has taught the second, third and fourth grade at Edison over the years.
Morgan said different teachers have different specialties. She admires the kindergarten teachers, but said she thinks they deserve combat pay for the first weeks of the school year because it can be challenging to teach little ones who are so new to school rules.
Elementary teachers are also usually well organized and Morgan is no exception. She said she has to be organized herself to teach her students how to be well-organized.
Morgan said she likes teaching third-graders the best.
"I like these third-graders," said Morgan, who has no problem getting down on the floor with her students. "They're still little kids and you can still be silly and goofy with them and not have them look at you like you're crazy." She also likes seeing the light of understanding come into their eyes when they finally understand a concept.
The kids are also still small enough to fit four to a loft in her padded "reading loft," which Miller will outfit with cozy cushions so they can be comfortable while reading.
At the same time, third grade is also a year when the eight and nine-year-olds in her class are growing and learning a lot and she gets to watch the transitions they go through from wide-eyed and full of awe and imprssed by the new freedom they get as third-graders, to kids who are more blase and in the know about the workings of the school by the end of the year.
"It's a tremendous growing year," said Morgan, who enjoys helping her students learn and grow.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to mdnews@minot