Morgan Arthur: ‘As long as we’re all working together, we can do incredible things’

Morgan is a school counselor at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School. Previously, she was an English and senior capstone teacher.

As told to Shaina Cavazos

I started at Tindley as a ninth-grade English teacher, and in my third year, they also asked me to teach senior capstone. Last year, I was also their college counselor. I find that really rewarding, knowing they are going off as prepared as we can make them.

The capstone is a year-long project. Students choose their own topic, and we start at the end of their junior year. They spend a semester doing collegiate-level research, writing a literature review, and then they take what they learned in their project and turn it into a more tangible project in the community. Then they give a more formal defense in from of a panel of judges.

Last year, we had a scholar research minority attendance at Ivy League institutions. She put together an Ivy League college tour over spring break, rented a bus, and recruited about 40 scholars to head out east to visit five schools. She has continued the tours now as a student at Notre Dame. She turned it into her own nonprofit organization with a board of directors.

And this one young man in particular, also a senior last year, struggled with time management and personal responsibility — not necessarily the work itself, but getting the work done and remembering his purpose for being at school and what he was trying to accomplish. I didn’t teach him during his sophomore and junior years, but he was in my class all the time. I think that’s because he knew he could come to me and I would be supportive and help him, but also hold him accountable. It was a place that was safe where he could come and work and where he was pushed to be excellent, because I’m not going to accept anything less than that.

Because of the pandemic, we did last year’s graduation ceremony in the parking lot at our school. We rented a stage and organized it so all the graduates could drive in with their parents and families. We had a shortened ceremony, but we were still able to have a keynote speaker and our valedictorian and salutatorian make addresses. I’m so glad we got to do something in person even if it wasn’t traditional.

I cried when that young man walked across the stage at graduation.

He was waiting with his dad by their car afterward for me to come over and say hello. He thanked me for sticking with him, for holding him accountable when he needed it, and showing him love and reminding him he’s capable.

Now, he’s at Indiana State and he wants to be a school counselor. Building that relationship with me made him see he can also impact other people positively.

It just all comes back to the kids for me. Every year we’ve had 100% of our Tindley scholars be accepted to a four-year university. We had 40 graduates last year, and they were collectively offered more than $15 million in scholarships. I just love watching them reach those milestones and celebrating their achievements.

Those seniors I mentioned were actually the last group of ninth-graders that I had taught. I had a chance to really build those relationships over the past four years, just knowing that it really does take a village. As long as we’re all working together, we can do incredible things for our scholars.

We’re featuring each of the 11 Office of Education Innovation 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists. Look for new features throughout the summer and fall.