Teachers. We have all had them. Some we have loved and others we have despised. Some are recollected in epic proportions, and of some we share horror stories like a badge of honor, boasting our survival. Others bring a nostalgic smile to our face and a few were not merely mentors, but friends. Whatever impression made, there is no question, teachers have a lasting impact.
Dr. Jordan Morton, chair of the Liberal Arts Department and the Teaching Credential program, is no exception. Graduate, Micayla Zide (Frankian) remarks, “Dr. Morton made credentialing fun. She always reminded us that there is ‘a day to freak out, but today is not that day!’ She has such a way with words which instantly calms you down and makes you laugh, even if you’re having a rough time. Her experience is invaluable and I loved her encouragement and words of advice.” From her energy in the classroom, to a simple conversation in her office, her passion for teaching is infectious.
Q. What is the most encouraging aspect about teaching?
A. The “aha,” lightbulb moment you see in the kids’ eyes. Yesterday they didn’t understand something and today they do, and it’s a direct result of something I did. It makes you want to do nothing else. In year thirty, the fun part for me is that I now have students, whom I taught, who are teachers. I hired a former student to be a teacher at a school I was previously at. That was a cool thing.
Q. Describe the most discouraging moment you’ve had as a teacher.
A. I haven’t ever had a discouraging moment in teaching because I know they can do it. “Come back tomorrow and try again, every day is a new day.” I’ve never had a moment as a teacher where I’ve said, I don’t like this; this is too discouraging. If you ever start having those moments than its time to start re-evaluating what you are doing.
You can’t have the luxury of giving up on kids; you just can’t because they can tell that you have. If you’ve given up on them then they will give up on themselves. You can’t reach everybody but you also can’t just say “I give up on you.” Teachers ask how much is enough, when do I stop trying? I respond, “are you going to the cross and dying?” because that seems to be the example that is given. Nothing is too much and the example is you don’t stop until you die, that’s what you have to do.
Q. You speak of teaching as if it is a calling, how do you know you are called?
A. This isn’t just a paycheck or something you do because you don’t know what else to do. Nothing will stop you from teaching. It’s a tough job and it should consume you. You know you are teacher when you’re in the gift store at Disneyland or on vacation and are buying things for your classroom. Unless you’re Jonah and want to spend some time with fish, you better be obedient to God and fulfill your calling.
Having taught for over thirty years, Morton has spent the last three at Master’s. In that time the credentialing program has grown from merely two students to twenty-one and the current interest for next year is more than double. Each graduate from the program has a full-time job teaching.
Though these are stunning quantitative facts, they are no surprise. Combined, the faculty has over 150 years of classroom experience and love what they do. They know what they teach their student is only as effective as how they teach it. They are teaching teachers. Credential candidate Brooke Brenner praises Dr. Morton: “she doesn’t just tell us how to be good teachers — she models it. Within each lesson, she teaches us to stop and ask ‘what did I just do?’ and caters her lesson to us as individuals, because, as she says, “that’s just good teaching.”
So what does the program look like? Each teacher candidate is assigned to a master-teacher in, or around, the Santa Clarita Valley, whose class they assist in each morning. Time is then spent on group projects with peers concluding with lessons and interaction with Master’s highly qualified professors. Many call the nine-month program “teacher boot camp”. As Doctor Morton says, “it requires commitment . . . this is what makes us successful and why the people around the Santa Clarita Valley want no one else as student teachers; they want Master’s student teachers. We are so rigorous they know our graduates are going to be prepared to be in the classroom and with students.”
Teaching is a calling. Dr. Morton is fulfilling hers and helping others fulfill theirs. Upon multiple conversations with alumni and current students, she is one teacher that has left a lasting impression. To be a teacher a student looks back and fondly remembers, is to know you made a difference. However, to be a teacher that student also knows as an example of Christ is a calling well fulfilled.