Each week, #SpanningtheNeed will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week’ and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted individuals and/or groups who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured is David Lee Morgan, Jr. from Stow-Munroe Falls Schools.
Name: David Lee Morgan, Jr.
Position: English Teacher/Video Journalism Teacher
School District: Stow-Munroe Falls High School
What made you want to go into the education field?
I always admired teachers and at the same time I always loved visiting schools and talking to students about the importance of education. When I was a sportswriter with the Akron Beacon Journal, I had friends who were teachers, and they would frequently ask me to speak to students about the writing process and how important it is to be an effective writer. The more I visited schools, the more I realized I needed to enter the education field.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful in education?
I would have to say it’s the passion I have for inspiring my students to want to learn as much as they can in and out of the classroom. Caring about my students in the most fundamental way- like showing and interest in their lives, who they are, what they like, understanding their strengths and weaknesses- plays an important role in establishing trust. When students know you genuinely care about them and their future, you begin to establish trusting relationships where students feel comfortable working hard and aren’t afraid to fail because it’s all part of the learning process.
What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
Definitely teaching too much and lecturing longer than I should. Often times I find myself over-explaining things instead of giving instructions, then allowing my students to work in pairs or in groups to try things on their own. Giving them that flexibility and ownership allows them to work harder and improves collaboration. I am learning to step out of the way at times and let them explore by themselves.
What is the best advice you can give future educators or the public?
Be patient and listen, really listen to what students have to say and have an open mind of where they are coming from- be empathetic of their perspective.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
I would read more. I read on a regular basis now, and always have, but I would have been an ultra-avid reader if I could go back. I’m talking book after book after book. So much knowledge is gained from reading; at the same time, avid readers, in my opinion, have dynamic creative skills which translate into outstanding writing skills.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
That’s easy. The song would be “Happy” by Pharrell. I try to live every second of my life being happy. Obviously, that’s impossible, but if you try to attain that feeling every day, then you’re going to have way more happy days than bad. And with life so precious, especially now that I’m not so far off from 60, being “Happy” is how I live my life.
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?Receiving my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Western Governors University and being selected as the 2022 Fall commencement speaker and receiving an honorary doctorate degree from my alma mater Youngstown State University. Those two professional accomplishments meant the most to me because they were consistent with what my parents taught me about the importance of higher education.
Who is your role model and Why?
My parents- Gwen and David Lee Morgan Sr. (Sonny). They were born in the south and experienced Jim Crow laws and racism before moving to Ohio. They taught me tolerance, empathy, acceptance, and that the way to fight discrimination and racism was to become as educated as possible. Education was and is an important tenet in our family.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet President Barack Obama. It would be fascinating to learn more about his background and how he overcame so many obstacles to become the first African-American President in this country’s history.
A favorite quote that you live by?
“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles to see you burn.” Growing up in the Mahoning Valley, this quote rings true for me. I always tried to be the best in my profession and be a unique voice. I always felt if I could separate myself from the pack with my positive attitude, enthusiasm, and passion, then people near and far would notice me and be interested in what I was doing in my profession.