“Congratulations to Elisabeth Morris for being selected as this year’s recipient of the 2019 Watchung Hills Regional Education Association (WHREA) Scholarship for Future Educators,” said WHREA President and WHRHS Social Studies Teacher Ken Karnas. “As a student who has excelled across the curriculum with a genuine love of learning, Morris is most deserving of this honor. She is a member of Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) National Honor Society, French Honor Society and National Arts Honor Society. Additionally, as a school citizen, Morris connects to our community in meaningful and purposeful ways.”
Among her co-curricular activities have been her participation in student government as a member of the Grade Level Council (GCL), and as a member of the WHRHS very active “Interact Community Service Club.”
One of her biggest contributions to WHRHS is her commitment to the WHRHS Child Development Program, Karnas said.
“This year Morris served an instrumental role in the program's success serving as a Child Education Manager,” Karnas said. “As a future educator, Morris has clear and distinct goals that have been shaped by both her personal medical history and the rich, vibrant experience she received at WHRHS. With grit, determination and robust resilience, Morris has been able to turn a childhood health challenge into a life-long journey of working to help others. Her story is significant, inspirational and heartwarming.”
Morris plans to continue on her path toward her professional goals next year when she attends James Madison University in Virginia. Morris plans to major in Special Education.
Since 2007, the WHREA has granted over $23,000 to future educators from our school, Karnas said. The scholarship is funded by members through an annual WHREA event in addition to individual contributions.
“The WHREA has always been supportive of students who choose to pursue education as a career,” Karnas said. “As educators, members of the association are aware of the challenges that future educators face and are happy to help students achieve their goals.”
2019 Recipient: Elisabeth Morris
For Elisabeth Morris, the connection to the field of education is already rich and deep. Morris is one of only four WHRHS students who has functioned as a manager with the Child Development Program at the school, Karnas said.
The progression to becoming a manager with the program required that Morris complete ten credits of prerequisite coursework within the department. Through all of those classes, Morris maintained a perfect 4.0 average.
“In general, she does quite well in all of her classes making her one of the top 80 students in her graduating class. Morris enjoys learning many different subjects, but it is the field of special education that she will focus on in college. It is a path Morris has been thinking about for a long time. The experience working with preschoolers at WHRHS has helped validate her passion as did her volunteer work with children,” Karnas said.
Morris talked about her passion for students with special needs.
“A significant part of my high school experience was when I helped as a sports buddy for younger, special needs children,” Morris said. “With this group, I helped players participate in modified soccer and basketball programs that without my assistance, they would not be able to enjoy.”
Morris explained that developing relationships with special needs children has been meaningful because it provided her with the chance to see how her personal time and effort could make a positive impact on others.
The strong desire to help others is a big reason why Morris would like to someday work as a teacher in a children's hospital or rehabilitation setting. On a personal level, Morris' medical history has also fueled her desire to someday help as an educator in that unique and special setting. At a young age, Morris was diagnosed with Juvenile Scleroderma, a medical condition that required a wide range of extensive testing, many IV treatments, frequent doctor’s visits, hospitalization and multiple surgeries.
According to Morris, her four-year-old self didn’t comprehend the long-term impact of the disease.
“But 14 years later,” Morris recently recalled, “Despite feeling that my diagnosis was unfair at a young age, it has ultimately shaped who I am today and who I hope to become in the future.”
“My medical history has helped me to look upon others with compassion and selflessness,” Morris said. “I was fortunate to be surrounded by caring professionals who made every treatment, procedure and surgery as tolerable as possible for a young girl. I want to follow in their footsteps to be the person that provides normalcy in a situation that is anything but normal.”
If you listen to Patricia Buzby, one of the two staff members in the Child Development Program at Watchung Hills, “normal” is not a word she associates with Morris. Buzby describes Morris as an “adept leader for her peers” who has a “kind, gentle and encouraging” personality with our preschoolers.
“Elisabeth was really the equivalent of a student teacher or intern with our program,” Buzby said. “She was joyful and professional every day. New Jersey needs more young people to go into teaching with the passion and love of learning I witnessed every day with Elisabeth.”
The Child Management class is the capstone course in the Child Development Program. It is the most selective phase of the program and progressing to this course is challenging.
“Elisabeth has the well-rounded skill set that made her a great manager,” Buzby said. “She is serious about her education and is focused on her goals in life.”