Susan Morris is the best teacher in the Department of Defense.
Don’t just take her students’ word for it: the Böblingen Elementary/Middle School teacher was recently named the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Teacher of the Year for 2010.
“She doesn’t just have us sit there and copy stuff,” said Taylor Lapierre, 13, who was in Morris’ 7th-grade social studies class last year. “She actually helps us by giving us opportunities to do fun things, instead of just sitting at a desk.”
Morris coordinates the school-wide National History Day program, in which students write a research paper and create a display to enter in competitions. She merges this program with her Advancement via Individual Determination class, designed to help prepare students with average grades for college.
Last year, eight BEMS students (two of them in AVID) made it to the national competition with their National History Day projects.
“She’s a great teacher because of her ‘I want you to be successful’ attitude and the fact that she doesn’t give up on kids,” said Dale Moore, BEMS principal. “She’s always positive.”
Morris, a wife and mother of one, believes relationships play a vital role in her teaching success.
“Relationships are the number one thing we can do as teachers,” Morris said. “[Students are] more plugged in, more excited, and more learning takes place.”
Morris’ ability create these relationships earned her a parent’s letter of recommendation for the Teacher of the Year award. Last year, a boy joined Morris’ class who was new to the community and very shy in school. Morris said that she worked with the student in AVID to help bring him out of his shell.
“It was like watching a flower bloom,” Morris said. “His grades improved to Honor Roll and his confidence skyrocketed.”
The parent’s letter of recommendation was key to helping Morris win the DoDEA award, Moore said.“It’s that special, one-on-one connection she makes with individuals that really makes a difference.”
Morris was selected for the the DoDEA Teacher of the Year award from a highly-qualified group of applicants, including the district Teacher of the Year winners in Europe, the Pacific and about 20 stateside districts.
As part of earning the title of DoDEA Teacher of the Year, Morris will compete against the top state and U.S. territory winners for the National Teacher of the Year award. She will also be awarded a sabbatical next semester to work on a project which will benefit DoDEA teachers and students alike.
She hopes to create tools to help other teachers to foster relationships with their students. “I’m totally excited,” she said. “If I can share my experience with our DoDEA team, I’m absolutely going to.”