By RENEE FITE
Tahlequah High School’s Teacher of the Year for 2012-’13 came to Tahlequah to attend college in 1978, and he never left.
Now in his fifth year at THS, math teacher Owen Morton says he’s humbled to have been picked by his peers.
“I know we have 70 to 80 teachers here at the school, and in my eyes, many are more deserving,” Morton said. “It makes me want to do an even better job, to not let anyone down.”
Morton enjoys teaching students the practical uses for algebra and geometry.
“Many people will say, ‘I never used any of that math from high school,’” Morton said. “I beg to differ with them, because a good math teacher will instill in them that at least they received problem-solving and deductive reasoning skills.”
He teaches the classes of pre-Advanced Placement Algebra I, geometry, Contextual Geometry, and Algebra Skills to students in grades 9-12. And he’s the lineman coach for the ninth-grade boys’ football team, which he loves doing.
“I chose these areas because I feel they are the areas I’m strongest in,” he said of his math classes.
But he’s also taught calculus, Algebra 2 and trigonometry.
Before coming to Tahlequah, he taught at Hilldale High School for 1-1/2 years. He graduated from Pocola High School and received a Bachelor of Science in Education from NSU.
“I had two high school math teachers who were fantastic: Mr. Coleman and Mr. Humpreville,” he said. “My Intern teaching mentor was Wayne Kindell. I learned how to develop relationships with the kids from him. He was a master at it.”
His uncle, Austin Morton, was also a big influence, and he says he survived his first year of teaching at Hilldale with the help and encouragement of Kim Morgan.
“I had someone who was an encourager and mentor. I can’t imagine how it would have been without her,” Morton said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Morton helps students embrace his classes with the promise that they are becoming problem-solvers.
“I try to impress upon them that future employers are looking for more than just an employee. They want people who can take care of issues if they arise,” he said.
Personal growth is a goal Morton has for each of his students.
“I hope my students come away from my classes being better people. I don’t mean just in math skills; I want them to be able to say, ‘Mr. Morton was a positive influence in my life,’” he said.
Morton became a teacher for the fulfillment it provides.
“It is a privilege to be able to help mold the mind of a person in a positive way. I feel ‘called’ to be a teacher. I feel God has given me a gift in this area,” he said.
The kids keep him young.
“My wife tells me I am the oldest ninth-grader at THS,” he said.
He enjoys the ability to make a positive difference in a young person’s life.
“I feel there is no greater honor or privilege bestowed upon me than to have the admiration of my students and peers,” Morton said. “I have the best co-workers you could ask for.”
As far as he’s concerned, THS has the best math department in the state.
“We collaborate with each other daily. It is great to have such encouraging and qualified people surrounding me,” Morton said. “They inspire me to be a better teacher.”
When he came to THS to teach, it was like he had “come home.”
“This place is composed of so many loving, caring, and qualified people. I felt immediate acceptance, and some of my best friends have came from relationships I have developed here,” he said.
The new Common Core Standards speak of the “3 R’s” of education: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship. Morton is totally convinced a great teacher is one who first develops relationships and rapport with the students.
“I think if you make it relevant, then the level of teaching that takes place will be greatly increased. If I had to pick one thing that makes a teacher great, I would have to go with just loving kids. If they know you care, they will work their tails off for you,” he said.
Morton encourages parents to be involved with their kids’ schoolwork and activities.
“It seems so many times the parents we need to see on parent-teacher conferences are not the ones who show up,” he said. “I encourage you to get your students’ PIN numbers and regularly look at their grades online through the school website. Call or email us with your concerns.”
Personal time, for Morton, revolves around family, fishing and cooking.
“I am married to my wonderful wife, Patti; we have five grown children, six grandchildren and a seventh on the way,” he said. “I am easy to find in the summer. Go to the lake or river, and you will usually see me there.”
And he loves to cook: It’s a close third behind hunting and fishing.
The Mortons have found Tahlequah to be a great “family” community.
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