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KC Spotlight: Theresa Morris-Terry

  • November 19, 2013

How did you get started in your career?

I wanted to be a teacher until sixth grade. It was then that I found that kids could be horrible to teachers. I graduated with a degree in anthropology with a specialty in archaeology and went to work for PacBell instead of going to Machu Picchu. It was a few years later that my husband suggested I might take some classes toward a credential. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher, but it proved to be great advice. 

How has your job changed since you started?

Parts of the job have not and will never change. Those are the parts I love. Children come to school every day to learn to read and write and to learn how to think mathematically. They come in new and fresh each day and bring with them the best they have to offer.

Technology has become a major component in the classroom, which is wonderful. Students have no fear of technology and respond well to the new forms of learning opportunities. It would have been difficult to imagine 7- and 8-year-olds filling in Scantron forms and building PowerPoint presentations 10 years ago. However, they are able to perform these tasks.

On a negative side, No Child Left Behind created the monstrous assessment that teachers have been required to give each year. The pressure of test scores on staff and students is incredible.

What would surprise people the most about your job?

I believe people have the misconception that teachers work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and have three months off in the summer. Wow, that sounds like a dream to me, too. The truth is we begin work early in the morning and stay late. I can be found at school at least three to four hours on weekends, or I bring work home. Also, our budgets are grim, and we spend a great deal of our own money on our students and classrooms.

What do you like to do outside work?

One of my favorite things to do is to ride my bike before work with my husband. I roll out of bed, get dressed and get on the road. Now that the weather is changing it takes a little longer to get ready since we need to wear more clothes. I am wide awake and ready for the day after six miles. We have worked up to the 20-mile Blossom Trail ride the past two years.

I also love to travel. We have started traveling for two weeks each summer. I have enjoyed discovering how much smaller the world becomes when traveling. Connecting with different cultures and people is always inspiring and educational.

What is the last book you read that inspired you?

I enjoy reading and I read a great deal. Although I read this book many years ago, “To Kill a Mockingbird” inspires me to this day. It deals with inequality, marginalizing, injustice, courage and compassion. I want to be Scout and I want to know Atticus Finch. I remember reading the book in junior high, and it moves me to this day.

What’s your favorite thing about being a teacher?

Every day is new. I make plans, but you never really know how the day is going to go with 24 little ones bringing their best into our world. Have you ever spent a day with 24 second-graders? It can be very entertaining.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Just do it!” I tend to overthink and sweat the small stuff. I credit my mom for the advice. I believe Nike might have stolen the phrase from my mom. She was rather amazing. The advice moves me and it helps me move on.

What advice would you give someone just entering the field?

Working with children is a gift. Teachers need to get to know and appreciate their students. We need to know their strengths, and they all have at least one. We must understand their needs, and many of them have more than one. We need to appreciate their living situation and appreciate what they bring to the classroom. Children have different experiences and learn in different ways. Be patient, be flexible, and always raise the bar. And remember to get a flu shot!

Bio box

Name: Theresa Morris-Terry

Occupation: Second-grade teacher, Cinnamon Elementary School

Hometown: Richmond

Education: Bachelor’s degree in anthropology with specialty in archeology at California State University, Hayward; teaching credential and master’s degree in teaching from California State University, Fresno.

Age: 57.

Family: Husband Paul Terry; daughters, Alison and Vanessa


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