Maria “Mia” Morrison is a kindergarten teacher at Valerie Elementary. Morrison has been an educator for more than 30 years and has been teaching in the Dayton Public School district for the last seven years. Prior to joining DPS, she taught in the suburbs of Chicago. Morrison was a 2020-2021 nominee for Ohio Teacher of the Year and was also nominated for Ohio Math Teacher of the Year through the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
What do your responsibilities include within the Dayton Public Schools?
My day-to-day responsibilities include making sure students have what they need to learn, delivering instruction in all curricular areas, communicating with students and their families and planning engaging activities that will help students learn and feel successful.
In addition, I sometimes work outside of the classroom to support the district. I have assisted with creating resources for kindergarten teachers, including updating the pacing guide over the summer. I have also taken part in district-wide curriculum efforts, including Curriculum Revisions Teams, literacy teams, the Model Teacher Academy, the Intervention Assistance Team, and more. These opportunities help me grow as an educator and allow me to experience other aspects of education.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
For me, teaching is a passion, not a job. From the time I was in kindergarten, I always “played teacher.” I love the connections I have with my students and their families. It is great to be able to work together and celebrate students’ successes. It is incredibly rewarding to see their “Aha!” moments when everything starts to click for them in reading and math. It makes the long hours worthwhile.
In addition, it is very exciting to see all of their growth and progress throughout the year. It is rewarding to know that I am making an impact on their future education as well as the present moment.
How has the pandemic affected your role as a teacher?
COVID-19 has challenged me to come up with creative ways to teach kindergarten students in the way I believe they learn best — through play and inquiry.
When the district was remote last year, I made sure each student had their own bin with materials such as Leggos, mentor texts, playdough, counting cubes and other manipulatives they would normally have in the classroom. When the district had an extended winter break, my team continued to meet virtually with students to read stories, hold scavenger hunts and other activities.
I also planned, created and recorded lessons that were used district-wide during remote learning last year because I served as the Teacher Leader for Kindergarten Math.
What do you hope students take with them from their time in your classroom?
I strive to create a classroom environment that exudes positivity, respect, kindness and compassion. I make sure to infuse lessons in social skills that will help them succeed in life, far beyond our classroom.
I hope I instill in my students the knowledge that they can do hard things; that everyone makes mistakes, it’s what you do after that matters; and that they had a teacher that loved them very much and wanted only the best outcomes for them.
One of the best moments so far this year was when one of my former students saw me taking a group of kindergarten students out to their bus at dismissal. She stopped and exclaimed “Mrs. Morrison!” She then turned to her friend and said “She was my favorite teacher! She is so much fun and so nice!” That made my day!
I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my students and their families each day.
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