TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Shonda Morson’s classroom is a judgment-free zone

Published 8:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

This article is part of a series by The Vicksburg Post, in partnership with the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, featuring each of the nominees for teacher of the year honors. 

Shonda Morson, a third-grade teacher at Redwood Elementary, encourages her students to make her classroom a judgment-free zone.

“From day one, I have created an environment where students feel free to ask any questions without fear of judgment,” Morson said.

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Morson is a finalist for the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year award. The chamber will select and announce one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year at the chamber luncheon on Feb. 15. The winner of each award will receive $1,000 from Ameristar Casino and the runner-up for each award will receive $500 from Mutual Credit Union. 

Morson started teaching in 2003 at Redwood Elementary School. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mississippi College and then got a master’s degree in 2009 from Mississippi College in elementary education. 

“My number one goal in the classroom is to ensure that all students have a safe and positive classroom environment so all students feel comfortable enough to be actively engaged and seek help with any lesson I am teaching,” she said.

To create a judgment-free environment, Morson’s class discussed how every student has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and everyone learns at their own pace.

She also teaches her students to celebrate their successes and learn from their mistakes.

“We celebrate accomplishments for a job well done and have serious discussions when I believe they didn’t put forth their best effort,” Morson said.

She builds classroom relationships by encouraging students to help each other. 

An example of group work is Morson’s math mystery lesson known as “The Case of the Furious Fall Winds.”

“This lesson demonstrated my beliefs about teaching and learning because it was a fun lesson and the students were engaged and there was lots of peer help and encouragement happening during the lesson,” she said.

In the lesson, the students are responsible for finding out who vandalized the character’s home from the story. All the students were divided into groups and every group had to solve five math tasks. Students were able to find the culprit after completing each task that would eliminate a suspect. 

Morson said she has high expectations for her students and wants them to excel in the classroom. She has her students set up goals and helps them figure out how to meet those goals.

“We set goals and the students know the action steps needed to meet those goals. They work very hard to meet their goals and we celebrate their successes,” she said.