Logan Morris acknowledges that “speechless” isn’t a word that those who know her would associate with her very often. But the seventh-grade language arts teacher at Russell Middle School admitted that she couldn’t find the words to match her emotions when she walked out of the front doors to the school one recent Friday morning and was surprised by her coworkers and students, who were gathered to celebrate the announcement of Morris as the Barrow County School System’s 2021-22 Teacher of the Year.
Morris, who last school year was a nominee for Russell’s teacher of the year, was chosen over three other finalists for the district-wide award this year and a dozen other school-level winners.
“It is an honor when your peers who are in the same trenches right alongside you recognize something in you that you don't even see in yourself,” Morris wrote to the The Barrow News-Journal in an email, taking time out of her new hectic routine at home with a newborn child. “To then see that come full-circle and see the same team that has been relentless in their support throughout this very different year rally together to recognize me (for the district-wide award) is such a perfect circle to end this school year.
“In addition to having the support system of my peers there to celebrate, having my students there as well meant the world. I think I can speak for most, if not all, educators when I say that I chose this path because of my love for teaching and for being relentless in wanting to make a difference for students, so they play the biggest role in why I was even able to stand there and receive this award in the first place.
“To be named Barrow County's Teacher of the Year is an honor that I truly have trouble with putting into words because of the weight of what it means to me. Our county is full of so many amazing teachers, and I am both humbled and honored to represent the greatness that we have going on in our hallways.”
Education has always been a desired career path for Morris — except, she says, for a brief period of time when she, like so many other children of the 1990s, watched the movie “Free Willy” and envisioned herself as a future marine biologist.
Morris earned a bachelor degree focusing on English and literature from Columbus State University and, after completing her master program, was hired four years ago to teach at Russell.
While she says her reasons for pursuing a career in education changed over time, the biggest draw for Morris has always been the students.
“I was blessed enough to have teachers who believed in me and were relentless in their support of me even when I didn't necessarily deserve it,” she said. “I want to be able to do the same for my students and be their cheerleader and supporter as they work through what kind of person they want to become armed with the resources that our school and teachers have been able to provide them with.
“On a lighter note, being a teacher and getting to teach and interact with students is just fun. ‘Monotony’ is not a word used to describe what happens in the four walls of the classroom because each class, each day, each minute can and will be something new.”
When Morris was surprised with the teacher-of-the-year announcement, standing by her side was Russell principal Meridith Wages, who may have been as excited as anyone in attendance for the news.
Wages said Morris is indeed a “cheerleader” for her students who encourages all of them to always believe in themselves.
“Mrs. Morris exhibits qualities of just the kind of teacher you dream of joining your team,” Wages said. “Her classroom serves as one of the most supportive and interactive school experiences most students will have. She spends countless hours planning and preparing for experiences that will impact students forever. Her energy is contagious and motivates all with whom she comes into contact. She works to encourage the development of the whole child, both academically and socially.
“What you will also witness is her students emulating these same behaviors as they inspire and cheer for the success of each other while in her classroom. She ignites passion for victory in all with whom she works as she creates a sense of community within her classroom and our school.”
“I could not be prouder of her; she understands the privilege she has each day to serve the students of Barrow County and will represent our district boldly at the state level.”
As the district’s teacher of the year, Morris will be provided with additional professional-development opportunities through the Georgia Teacher of the Year Program and will be recognized at a statewide banquet in Atlanta in August, where the statewide winner will be announced.
In Barrow County, school-level winners are voted on by their peers, and the top three vote-getters are observed and scored by a selection committee made up of the school’s governance team and reigning teacher of the year. A board of education-led selection committee chooses the district finalists and winners.
The other three district finalists included Ashley Akins of Bethlehem Elementary School, Candice Stephens of Kennedy Elementary and Erin Hunt of Winder-Barrow High.
Other school-level winners included:
•Stephanie Atkinson, Apalachee High
•Grace Heck, Auburn Elementary
•Thomas Blankenship, Bear Creek Middle
•Kelley McDaniel, Bramlett Elementary
•Amanda Wilson, County Line Elementary
•Denise Coulombe, Haymon-Morris Middle
•Jenna Nixon, Holsenbeck Elementary
•Ben Manning, special programs (AIM, AEP, Sims Academy)
•Tara Nunley, Statham Elementary
•Aaron Stinson, Westside Middle
•Abby Norman, Winder Elementary
•Valerie Wall, Yargo Elementary.