Alumni Profile: Melissa Morris G'08
Melissa Morris had worked in advertising for nine years when she decided to change careers and become a teacher. Looking to earn a master’s in education and become a certified teacher all at once, she enrolled in the master of arts in teaching with certification/licensure program at North Park University. “The MAT degree was a simple way to do both in a relatively short amount of time at a fair price,” says Melissa, who completed the program in two-and-a-half years and graduated in 2008.
Now an English teacher at Taft High School, a Chicago Public School, Melissa found herself a part of a supportive and caring community at North Park. Her small classes allowed for close interaction with faculty and other students, and her advisor served as a mentor throughout the program and continues to help her today. Many of her classmates were also changing careers. “Being in such a compassionate cohort of other career changers made me feel like we were all working towards making a difference in our communities by dedicating our lives to education,” she says.
She learned many tips and techniques from faculty—themselves classroom teachers who talked about everything from how to pass out and collect papers to how to talk with parents and collaborate with colleagues. They prepared her for the challenges of teaching by sharing best practices and their own experiences in the classroom. For example, she learned classroom management strategies in her English methods course, which taught her how to use and implement skills-based rubrics for evaluating essays.
Professor Ted Zervas, a former CPS teacher who understood the complex school system and its challenges, became a mentor to Melissa and helped prepare her for working at Taft. “Even though I graduated in 2008, I still talk with him on a regular basis and he has been a sounding board for me, always listening to me discuss my students and lessons and lending great ideas,” she says.
Melissa achieved National Board Certification for teaching in 2012 and teaches sophomores in the Middle Years Programme, the Pre-International Baccalaureate program. “Taft is an incredibly diverse learning community, and I feel North Park really prepared me for working with students of all abilities,” she says.