Mary Ellen Morgan honored by Keuka College

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Keuka College Adjunct Professor of the Year Mary Ellen Morgan accepts her award from Dr. Jorge L. Diaz-Herrera, President of the college.

The Keuka College Adjunct Professor of the Year makes no bones about her strict supervising style. If a student teacher appears to be slacking off and she knows they can do better, Mary Ellen Morgan won’t let up for a minute.

Indeed, when the Penn Yan resident was called to the stage Dec. 11 during Keuka’s mid-year conferral of degrees, a portion of her introduction included comments from a student whose respect Morgan had earned.

“I absolutely hated Mrs. Morgan … Even as I say this, I love her and everything was for my own good. I grew so much with her help, and I always knew where I stood. Her criticisms never stopped, but that was a great thing,” the student wrote.

Morgan said she smiled hearing it, because she knew exactly who wrote it, and knew he was capable of more.  

“I know that I am hard on the kids,” she said, using her favorite word for the student teachers under her care, “especially the first couple weeks. I wanted him to achieve and I stayed right on him. (Student teaching) is such a short time frame, I want them to get the best of it, so I come down on them because I want to make sure they get their feet in the doors.”

Since 2001, the Penn Yan resident has been supervising student teachers in Keuka’s education division, meeting weekly with them and their mentor teachers on location at schools across Western New York. Student teachers may work in districts from Waterloo to Watkins Glen to Wayland, perhaps as far as 60 miles from the Keuka Park campus.

Morgan first “filled” a spot in the supervisor ranks for a friend who moved to Germany, and has been involved ever since. Morgan’s daughter graduated from Keuka in 1988, and Morgan’s family moved to the Keuka Lake area full time in 1996. She has also worked with the College Rotoract Club, affiliated with the Rotary Club of America, and took a group of students to Gettysburg last year for a Rotary conference.

Morgan brings a total of 32 years at Elmira City Schools to her work, having taught seven years at the elementary level and 26 years in secondary level classrooms.

During many of those years, Morgan served as a sponsor teacher for a semester for young college seniors completing their student teaching rotations. That’s an edge she believes she brings to her supervisory role.

“That (experience) gives me a better knowledge of a sponsor teacher and what she would like to have done, and what the student teacher would like to accomplish. I feel a good teacher coaches their students through the trouble spots, and rewards their achievements, and encourages good character. I’ve always tried to find the uniqueness of the student (teacher), and to develop their skills to the highest potential,” she said.

Morgan values an environment that frees a student teacher to ask questions, and thereby correct any errors before they morph into mountains. She also encourages student teachers to visit two or three other classrooms, not stay solely in the room where they’re assigned, and get new ideas on curriculum or classroom management from other veteran and student teachers. She pushes Keuka students to attend faculty meetings, and sample the entire school environment.

“The biggest thing is I want them to get the reality of it, not put on a show for me,” Morgan said.

A typical week for Morgan includes meeting at the placement school with both student teacher and sponsor teacher to review lesson plans before they are taught in the classroom.

Morgan will also review what they are currently teaching and find out how it’s going. Then each Sunday night, she will call her Keuka student teachers to ensure they are all set for the upcoming week.

At the close of each teaching assignment, Morgan will ask student teachers three main questions:

What do they feel went well? What did not go well? How would they change it?

“If they remember to keep asking themselves that, their whole teaching [experience] is going to be so much better,” she said.

Morgan said her dream was always to be a teacher, and she found inspiration in Eleanor Roosevelt, who said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

“But I think it takes a whole team working together to make it happen, too,” Morgan added, praising Keuka’s education division and Field Period, a 140-hour annual internship each student conducts, as the cornerstones that make for a well-rounded student. “I also think the community environment at Keuka, challenges you to do the very best.”

“By the time I get them, it’s just polishing it off so that they do a good job at their student teaching placement. Polishing - that’s what we really work on,” she said.

She also thanked her family for their support, noting her mother and husband were teachers, and her brothers were both in education.

“My children and grandchildren help me keep up with the modern technology, and that is very beneficial when working with the kids,” she added. “I just enjoy working with, and being with, the kids.”