When Laura Morris saw a video of students at Northaven Elementary - perhaps the most diverse school in Southern Indiana - singing a song during a recent World Fest, she nearly wept.
"I was like, 'I can't wait to be there,'" the school's new principal recalled.
Morris, who is transferring to the Jeffersonville elementary after leading Corden Porter for the past three years, said it was difficult to leave her post at the alternative school - "I love to work with at-risk students," she said - but she is thrilled to return to the school at which she started her elementary teaching career.
The Courier-Journal stopped by Northaven to chat with Morris. Here's what she had to say.
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Q: What are you most looking forward to in becoming the principal at Northaven?
A; I look forward to working with more students. At Corden Porter, I only had 55, and at Northaven, I'll have 450, so a major change in the amount of students so I look forward to forming relationships with the parents, with the staff, with the students. And then I love looking at our data, what our challenges currently are at Northaven and then getting a plan for what we need to do to be successful. I love doing that, which I'm pretty sure is why they put me here.
Q: Is this your first time leading an elementary school?
A: First time leading an elementary. My degree is in elementary education, even though I've spent most of my career in special education. The year before River Valley, I was a fourth grade teacher at Wilson (Elementary), and I was a teacher at Northaven, so I'm coming back home. My first elementary teaching position was at Northaven, and I taught second grade then. That was many moons ago.
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Q: About how many years ago?
A: 2003, maybe. Not too bad. I've been across the country and back, so it always feels weird.
Q: Have things at Northaven changed a lot since your first teaching position?
A: Yes. It's a very different school. It has changed quickly. A quarter of our students are learning a second language, so that's new. We had a very small ELL (English Language Learners) population whenever I taught at Northaven, and the city continues to move out, so whenever that happens, your demographics change a little bit, but it's the same in every other way. A lot of the same people are here. That's exciting.
Q: Any plans for the next school year?
A: I specialize a lot in behavior, so we'll look at our PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) plan - Dr. (Andrew) Melin's P.R.I.D.E. We'll look at our P.R.I.D.E. and make some adjustments there, and then we're going to do a lot with literacy. That's where we're going to start.
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Q: Do you foresee any changes happening with those ELL students in mind?
A: We're doing a lot of co-teaching, and then we have three teachers that specialize in language acquisition, so those three work with those general education teachers in the classroom so that those kids can learn you should see the transformation of the kids who are just here one or two years. It's amazing that you can learn English that quickly.
Q: When you were in elementary school, what was your favorite subject?
A: It wasn't really a subject, but my favorite thing was in 5th grade, my teacher did a newsletter. I loved that because we got to develop the stories. So, I guess (it was) writing.
Q:What's your favorite school cafeteria lunch?
A: My favorite cafeteria lunch is the Thanksgiving lunch with the turkey and the mashed potatoes. They give you more food.