We all look back and think of teachers that have inspired us—those who teach us more than what can be captured within the confines of textbook. For the past 40 years, Morgan Middle School art teacher Steve Carrigan was one of those. He taught his students much more than art. He had a vision to not only teach fundamental skills such as charcoal and pencil drawings, but to teach them about life and being true to themselves.
Steve grew up in Morgan and loved the opportunities afforded here. Naturally he and his wife Suzanne chose to live in Morgan after they were married. It has been a wonderful place to raise their six children. Their son Chad still lives in Enterprise with his wife Kallie and their two children. Stacy and her husband Adam are living in Williamsburg, Va., with their three children. Cory is a little closer, living in Layton with his wife and five children. Curtis and his wife Lindsey have been married one year and are living in Layton. Collin and his wife Madelane are living close by in Milton.
As a little child Steve could always be found drawing. He was so excited for 6th grade, the year art classes started in grade school. He loved entering the different art and poster contests, which helped to nurture this passion. It was no surprise that he decided to make this a career. Steve majored in Art with a minor in Physical Education. Throughout the years he was able to use his skills teaching 9-12th grade Painting, Student Government, 8th Grade U.S. History, 7th Grade Remedial Reading, 7th Grade Success (a class similar to today’s CTE—teaching skills such as setting goals, life skills and career options). Steve started his teaching career in 1972 at Huntsville Jr. High, and taught there for three years before coming to Morgan in 1975. In addition to teaching in the classroom, Steve used his P.E. background as well. He loved coaching over the years. He was able to coach many teams including baseball, basketball, and football throughout the years. Perhaps his most proud assignment was the 18 years he spent not just coaching and overseeing the track team, but transforming it into the high quality program it is today. He was instrumental in creating intramural sports teams here at MMS, which was known statewide for the quality of athletes coming through the program.
When he first started teaching here in Morgan, the junior high and high school were housed together in the same building. Realizing the difference of ages and maturity in kids from 6th to 12th grade, administrators started the movement toward creating middle schools. Working with Jerry Peterson and many others, Steve and the school board created what is known today as Morgan Middle School.
Above all Steve would like his students to “remember to be themselves. Find out who you are and develop your talents. Don’t be afraid to try. In this world that we live, we think that there is only one winner. But we forget that working hard and improving is success in life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be true to yourself and hold true to your values.” One of the greatest aspects about art is a student could daydream and there is no wrong answer. Anything goes and sometimes the more personality in art, the better it becomes.
Steve loved watching students’ eyes light up as they first tasted success with a new principle or technique. Often they would start out thinking they would fail. Then as they found they could do it, their confidence in themselves as a student and also as a person would grow. He loved to watch their love for art and their love for life expand. Although he taught about art, he taught about life as well. Art was just the vehicle to get these kids going. Mr. Carrigan enjoyed what he did stating, “this wasn’t a job.” More than that, he continues that he, “couldn’t not love the kids.” In a moment of reflection after pondering his rich and rewarding career, he adds, “It was just a great opportunity to work with everyone—from the bus drivers, to the office staff, the custodians, lunch ladies and also the students.”
After 40 years of teaching he is excited to be able to spend more time with his family and 15 grandchildren. Hopefully some travel will be mixed in as well as working on some religious pursuits. For the first time in years Mr. Carrigan will be able to spend time working on his own favorite types of art—watercolors and pencil drawings. But a little place in his heart will always remain with the students and faculty at Morgan Middle School, because as he puts it “how could you not miss it?”