In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin Morris was in his 32nd year of teaching, and it almost became his last. He and his wife contracted the virus. She recovered quickly, but Mr. Morris did not and had to fight for his life in a hospital intensive care unit. He eventually got better but regaining his stamina was difficult, and he kept postponing his return to the classroom. That’s when Mr. Morris began considering retirement. “Maybe it’s telling me something,” he recalled. He was a teacher and a three-sport coach at a brick-and-mortar school, and his regular days and workload were taxing. As he regained strength, Mr. Morris said he realized he wasn’t ready to retire. His parents were educators who shaped his and his sister’s dedication to teaching because of how they affected kids. “I saw what an impact they had on students, and I wanted someday to have that legacy,” Mr. Morris explained. After high school, he enrolled at Mississippi State University and paid for his college education by working as a photographer at the Starkville Daily News newspaper and the school yearbook.
That tenacity also pushed him to apply for a job at University View Academy when he recovered from COVID-19. He was accepted to teach 5th-grade science. “It gave me a new lease on my professional life,” Mr. Morris admitted. He’s in his first year at UVA and credits two co-workers for mentoring him as he took on the unfamiliar teaching role in an online classroom. “I’ve had the time of my life so far and enjoyed learning,” Mr. Morris declared. It’s been eye-opening and exciting since Mr. Morris said he didn’t realize so many resources were available in the virtual setting.
He said his favorite part of online teaching is the live sessions, and he’s refined them over the school year to tailor them for all types of learners. “I really like to be able to interact with the students. That’s the whole part of being a teacher,” he explained. He loved the rapport he built with students and recounted one of his earliest live sessions of the school term. He said aloud he needed a reminder about his glasses. He now hears “Don’t forget to put your glasses on” in each session from the same student. “Thanks for keeping me in line,” is Mr. Morris’ retort. That same student was part of the recent in-person LEAP2025 testing Mr. Morris monitored. Before the exam started, the student gave Mr. Morris the regular reminder, “Don’t forget to put on your glasses.” It’s also a reminder about why he became a teacher.