Photo Credit: USI Photography Services
USI senior Sharon Morris describes her dream job as working with first, second, and third-grade students with hands-on learning activities, especially in the areas of reading, math, and/or science. While student teaching and covering a math lesson, she had students survey each other and with the information collected, the students created line and bar graphs. During a spelling lesson, she assembled wooden letters of the alphabet in a box and students pulled letters out and unscrambled them to discover what word was in the box.
The elementary education major was among the graduates in the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education who received her undergraduate degree this spring. With husband John, instructor in Radio and Television at USI and children Joanna Knapp, 20; Katie Morris, 19; Issac Morris, 16; and Lillian Morris, 13, looking on, Morris graduated summa cum laude.
Her teaching skills earned her a 2012 Outstanding Future Educator award from the Indiana Association for Colleges of Teacher Education.
A nontraditional student, Morris’s first college degree was in physical therapy from the University of Oklahoma. She worked in that field for 22 years and then decided to pursue something else she loved—teaching. The youngest of her four children is a teenager. “I was involved with my children’s education, and that is what inspired me to get an elementary education degree with a reading minor,” said Morris. “By the time I have an empty nest at home, I’d like to have a full classroom!”
She points to faculty who helped her along the road to graduation. “Mrs. Beth Otto was an excellent advisor and helped me map out the courses I needed to achieve my goal,” Morris said. “This took some effort to figure out since I was a nontraditional student.”
She remembers Dr. Jeff Thomas as packing science class with classroom management information that has been crucial in student teaching, and she credits Mrs. Teresa Branson and Mrs. Lisa Bartley for their help learning how to work with the Promethean Board technology.
“Dr. Joyce Gulley filled my last semester with excellent young adult literature and stimulating conversation,” she added. "She is full of good advice when it comes time for taking the Praxis II exam.”
Attending USI opened several opportunities for Morris. She met dedicated educators in the community during field experiences and witnessed a variety of teaching situations. Her fall field experience in the Literacy Block included hours in the classroom at Joshua Academy, a K-5 elementary charter school in Evansville. “The charter school had created a special culture that helps students learn to take responsibility for their choices and the future,” she said. “My favorite words of encouragement I heard the teachers say to the students were, ‘I hope you make good choices today.’”
With her skill, zeal, and enthusiasm for teaching and learning, Morris will be able to engineer opportunities so good choices continue to be made by future students.