Teacher Evelyn I. Morris Remembered

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4By Terry Rogers

Although almost everyone in Milford School District knows that the school in Lincoln is known as the Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center, few are aware of the contributions Mrs. Morris made to the education of students in the district. Today, the school provides education for Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten students in the district.

The school was built in 1931 and known as the Lincoln Community School for many years. The school closed temporarily due to low enrollment, but was renovated for use in 1992. In 1968, a former board member, Edward Switzer, suggested that the school be renamed after Mrs. Morris who had been the beloved teacher at the school for 39 years. Overall, Mrs. Morris was a teacher for more than 51 years, which she said was part of her life seven days a week.

Mrs. Morris, who was born Evelyn Isaacs, graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1916 from Greenwood High School. To become a teacher, she took tests that qualified her and she became certified after teaching for five years. Mrs. Morris began teaching in Ocean View at the age of 17, a position which paid her $40 per month. While teaching third and fourth grade, Mrs. Morris boarded in a home owned by Mrs. Anna Waples at a cost of $3 per week, which included board and laundry services.

Mrs. Morris, who had seven siblings, was unable to visit her family often while teaching in Ocean View as this was during the time that automobiles were not prevalent. In order to travel to her home in Greenwood, she would travel in a mail truck to Frankford where she would take the train. The train took her to Harrington where she was then picked up to travel home to Greenwood.

Eventually, Mrs. Morris accepted a position at the Fisher School outside of Greenwood, which was a one teacher school. She taught 60 students in eight grades, earning a salary of $75 per month. The following year, she accepted a position at the Prime Hook School which had two teachers. She remained in that position for the next three years, boarding at the home of Mrs. John Argo at Sugar Hill.

In an interview with Elaine Dickerson in 1978, she remembered walking the ditch bank to school in winter weather when the roads were even too bad for horses to make their way. Many times, the roads were full of ruts, causing Mrs. Morris and the children to make their way to school together. The roads were so treacherous during those years, Mrs. Thomas R. Wilson began a hot lunch program at the school so the children would not have to travel the roads for their mid-day meal.

Mrs. Morris transferred to the village of Bethel to teach for a time before returning to Prime Hook and then to the Cedar Grove School. Before taking the position at the Cedar Grove School, Mrs. Morris married a classmate from Greenwood, Virgil Morris, to whom she was devoted. The couple had one child, Eleanor, born in 1923 and Mrs. Morris took a one year leave of absence to spend it with her daughter.

In the classroom, Mrs. Morris stressed self-discipline and was one of the first teachers to promote moveable furniture in the classroom. She tried many methods to encourage not only the students who excelled, but also those who struggled with their studies. She visited the home of each child in order to learn anything she could that might help her reach students. Mrs. Morris was a firm believer in positive reinforcement. If a child missed eight answers on a test one day but only missed seven on the test the next day, she praised them for their improvement.

Through the years, Mrs. Morris continued her education, earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and later a master’s degree in education. She also took courses from Columbia University under Dr. Roma Gans, a remedial reader expert. Even on weekends, Mrs. Morris focused on teaching, returning on Saturday to the classroom to prepare for the upcoming week. She taught Sunday School at the Lincoln Methodist Church and spent the afternoon either grading papers or planning lessons.

Mrs. Morris’ daughter, Eleanor, who married John Burton Donovan, also became a teacher, being named Milford’s Teacher of the Year in 1978 while teaching at the Lulu Ross Elementary School. Her only granddaughter, Cynthia Donovan Highfield, also became a teacher in the Stanton School District.

After retirement, Mrs. Morris retired to the home owned by her daughter and son-in-law on South Washington Street. When a photo of her was unveiled in the lobby of the school in 1972, the brass plaque under it stated “Many are so glad you came their way.” There is still a photograph of Mrs. Morris in the lobby of the school today.