Mitchell High's Morgan receives second Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year award

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Jul. 2—In his 2014 MVP acceptance speech, eleven-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant told reporters "basketball is just a platform for me to inspire people."

Mitchell High School teacher Steve Morgan chose to employ Durant's philosophy in how he teaches. Now, he's been awarded the Mitchell Rotary's Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year Award for the second time.

Seniors from Mitchell High School and Mitchell Christian have the opportunity to nominate educators that have made a difference in their school careers.

"I am extremely humbled and honored to receive this award for two reasons," Morgan said. "One: this award is endorsed and recommended by students. Two: there are a lot of competent, compassionate and caring teachers in this school district."

Morgan has been teaching in the Mitchell School District since 1989, and currently teaches high school-level and college-level history courses. His passion for his job is what he said makes him a successful teacher.

"You've gotta have passion," Morgan said. "If you can teach with passion, you're going to succeed and persevere in teaching."

Part of his classroom philosophy is getting to know kids on a personal level, instead of just as students. His life experience helps him connect to the juniors and seniors he teaches.

"Many of these kids do not know what they wanna go into, many of them are scared about the future and anxious about the future. They'll get to college and say this isn't for me," Morgan said, describing how he experienced the same problem.

Starting out at the University of South Dakota, Morgan realized it just wasn't the right fit. He transferred to Northern State University, which was known for its teaching programs, he said.

"The pivotal experience that changed my life was a play that I tried out for and got the part in Inherit the Wind," Morgan said.

Inherit the Wind, originally a movie, surrounds the Scopes Trial, in which a Tennessee schoolteacher is put on trial teaching evolution instead of creationism.

"I walked right over to the registrar's office" to enroll in the education program, Morgan said.

Now, with over 30 years of teaching under his belt, his main focus is leading kids to pursue their passion — something he said is now a model he has employed in the classroom.

Morgan is only the third educator to receive the award twice in the last 20 years, according to Tom Dice, member of Mitchell Rotary's scholarship committee and former chapter president.

Dice said the award gives students the opportunity to show educators that they had a meaningful impact. Seventy-five students from Mitchell Christian and the public high school nominated educators for the award this year.

"It gives students an opportunity in their senior year to reflect on what contributed to their success," Dice said. "Students get to ask themselves: 'in my 12 years, who in the system has made a difference to me?'"

Leaving the nomination process up to the students is the best way to determine who should be considered, Dice said.

"Who better to judge than the students who are in the classroom," Dice asked, rhetorically. He added that submissions stay anonymous, so students don't receive any sort of benefits for nominating anyone.

Madisyn Sheesley graduated from Mitchell High School in May, and she had Mr. Morgan for a college-level U.S. History and for her senior-year Student Responsibility Block — similar to a traditional study hall.

"I was lucky enough that I got to go to his classroom twice" each day, Sheesley said.

Despite not having a major interest in history courses, Sheesley said Morgan made the subject more entertaining and engaging for her.

"He always made it fun — some things he would act out and get a laugh," Sheesley said. "Plus, he's really knowledgeable on his subject so it's really nice."

Morgan's teaching philosophy made sure no student was left behind, either, which Sheesley noticed.

"He's always really helpful. He's always making sure you're getting the help you need," Sheesley said. "He never left anybody hanging."

Morgan said he appreciates the work of the Rotary in helping teachers earn recognition for their work.

"Teaching is difficult, though it looks easy when you're sitting in the back of the room," Morgan said. "Any organization that recognizes teachers is a great thing for our profession."

Morgan said he hopes for many more years of teaching at Mitchell High School.

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