Shirley Morris is a preschool teacher in Anniston. Originally from Piedmont, she credits her community and her teachers with inspiring her. Still working at 82 years old, Morris currently spends her days as a teacher in the PreSchool Friends program at Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston.
Where did you go to school? Tuskegee Institute; now it is Tuskegee University. I got my B.S. and master’s at Southeast Missouri State University. I got my certification from Southern Illinois University.
What did you study? I studied vocational home economics at Tuskegee and reading as a specialist at SEMO.
What was it about teaching that connected with you? I had such wonderful teachers in high school; they really impressed me a lot. I decided that teaching is what I wanted to do.
What drew you to vocational home economics? I always had been a decorator, house person, cook, seamstress; I always did that growing up.
Where have you taught? My first three years of teaching after college was spent in Clearwater, Fla. I got married and went to Illinois and taught in Illinois for 18 years. I decided to move back home to take care of my mother and my brother, a disabled veteran. I came back to Alabama and worked 18 years at Alexandria. I worked for nine years in Gadsden at a special school as the provost. I went over there to set up a reading program, and once there, the director asked me if I would teach it. A vacancy came up, and I accepted. I have been with PreSchool Friends for four years.
What grades have you taught? I have taught kindergarten through 12th grade. I taught vocational home economics to high schoolers in Florida, and I taught fifth graders at Alexandria. In Gadsden, it was a non-graded program called Excel.
How did you come to PreSchool Friends? I got a call. I had been recommended by a friend, and I was asked to come and observe. I came up and enjoyed what I saw. I thought I could do this for a while; this is my fourth year.
What is Preschool Friends? We are an outreach program at Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston that gets children from the community ready for kindergarten. Coming here gives me an outlet and makes me feel that I am doing something important with my life rather than just sitting around and watching television. It makes me think I am doing something great because I can see the progress the children are making.
Who was the most important teacher in your life? Isabella Nolen Cleveland. I had her 9th-12th grade. She taught me English and a lot of other lessons about living. She took us to movies. She took us to plays. She was an all-around teacher, not just in the school.
Do you have a particular student you remember? No, I have had so many students, it is difficult to pick out just one of them. I will say that my first years teaching in Clearwater, Fla., taught me a lot about dealing with a different community and different types of children. I still hear from students I taught. I receive Christmas cards, telephone calls and notes.
What does it mean to you when one of your students reaches out? It is just beautiful! I received a Christmas card this week from one of my former students, and I wrote one back to her to let her know how much I appreciated hearing from her. She sent me pictures of her children. I enjoy my former students contacting me and bringing their children by for me to see and letting me know how their lives are going.
What do children need to be successful in school? Be sincere. Be concerned. Education is very important; just high school is not enough anymore. Everything is open to you; go and get it! Put forth an effort.
What are you passionate about? At my age? My family, my church, my health and being happy.
What makes you happy? Seeing every day as the greatest day of my life.
Is every day the greatest day of your life? Yes.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.