For 45 years, Linda Morrison reported for work at the same school in the same classroom. Sometimes her days began at 5 a.m. in the driving snow when she coached the Morgan High School Academic Decathlon team.
Almost every day, she didn’t leave when school dismissed. In fact, she can count on one hand the number of times in 45 years she left at 3 p.m.
The late days were spent helping students build Sterling Scholar portfolios, coaching boys tennis, acting as the cheerleader advisor, presiding as Morgan Education Association president, serving on the state AcaDec council, or assisting student body officers.
Still, she said she never “had” to go to work, she “got” to go to work.
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, English teacher Linda Morrison retired after spending her entire career at the same school and reaching the lives of an estimated 17,550 students.
It was a great year to retire on the heels of hosting the region Sterling Scholar, when the whole community came together to honor academic excellence. Of the 15 categories, 13 Morgan High Sterling Scholars either won or placed in the competition.
In her decades of teaching, Morgan has hosted the competition six times.
“It was wonderful to see the community come together for one purpose, to show what our community is all about,” Morrison said of this year’s event. “We welcomed others, and were not afraid to work for a common cause.”
Morrison remembers the first year Morgan High was part of the rural Sterling Scholar program because she was actively involved. In those days before scanners and computer pagination systems, Sterling Scholar portfolios could not be more than two inches thick. Even if they used the weight of a press to compress binders to those specifications, students had Morrison to help along the way.
Eventually, the Sterling Scholar program required 35 pages, then down to the more recent 24, and on to paperless electronic entries.
What didn’t change was Morrison’s love of the students, community, English and the teaching staff.
She has been able to witness first-hand how academic excellence translates into scholarship money for high school students to continue their educations. Just this year, Morgan Sterling Scholars walked away with a combined $7,100 in prize money and qualified for countless academic scholarships.
“It is fun to see the beginnings,” Morrison said. “If you are in it long enough, you get to see the end. That’s the blessing.”
She is beginning to see the third generation of students come into her classroom. Each generation seems a bit better prepared academically, she said.
“If you can make a difference in a child’s life, that is the blessing,” she said. Becoming close to students in just a few short years can translate into lifetime friendships, something she said she cherishes.
She sid she has been “lucky” to be involved in things she has been passionate about, especially AcaDec and Sterling Scholar over the years.
“It is important that academia be rewarded,” she said. “Those programs reward kids for learning and what they can do.”
The love of a small, rural community kept Morrison in Morgan her entire teaching career.
“Once I started, I loved the community and kids and I just didn’t have a desire to go anywhere else,” she said. “Morgan reminded me of home, where everyone knew everyone.”
She grew upon on a farm in Arimo, Idaho, and graduated from Marsh Valley High School, where one English teacher particularly touched her life during her junior year. She graduated from Utah State University and heard about a teaching position in Morgan “on a fluke.” Morgan’s superintendent interviewed her in Logan and hired her on the spot.
She began in 1969 teaching above the old gym, and moved to the new wing just a few months later. She never left that classroom.
Other things have changed over the years, though.
She said she sees many changes happening in education lately.
“Education is evolving,” she said. “It is becoming a different animal. It is not bad, just different.”
She said it can be a challenge to have enough time to teach students everything expected.
To new teachers, she offers the advise “You have to love the kids and the subject matter,” something she excelled at during her own career.
“Kids need to be able to write, organize, put their ideas together and support what they say,” Morrison said. “If they can do that, they can do anything.”
She said reading from a wide variety of genres enriches students’ lives, enabling them to “feel, and think what they would do in similar situations.” The connection to both feelings and history is something literature is key to.
In her retirement, she is moving on to new expectations. This summer, she spent time with family in Idaho and hopes to spend more time with her grandchildren in St. George. She would like to read, travel and volunteer in the future.
“The hardest thing for me will be seeing the big yellow bus go by when school starts again,” Morrison said, looking outside her living room window in Morgan City. “I will miss the kids and staff.”