Mrs. Marianne Morgan, English teacher at the Western Wayne High School for many years with a 38-year career in education recently retired. She fondly remembers many great times during her lengthy career at Western Wayne.
Morgan attended college at East Stroudsburg University. For most of her career she taught high school English. However, Morgan’s first position was as a kindergarten and 8th grade teacher. She worked at Western Wayne for 33 years having taught sophomore, juniors, and seniors. She even taught the district’s current assistant superintendent Cynthia LaRosa.
Along with greatly influencing Western Wayne students in the classroom, Morgan also worked with a variety of clubs and extra-curricular activities in her career. This includes her work with the Communications/ Drama Club along with positions where she served as NHS adviser, class adviser, newspaper adviser, literary magazine adviser, and Girls Lead Club adviser.
Morgan has many memorable moments and memories from her career.
She recalls a hard drive, that held a nearly complete layout for a 24- page newspaper, being taken out of the journalism class computer in 2004 when she missed time for the funeral of her mother. This was, of course, devasting to Morgan but she recalls her students stepping up and showing great Western Wayne pride and dedication during this difficult time.
“My editor Kendra Sledzinski then organized the staff to retype and layout every page by following the one hard copy she had of the edition,” Morgan explained. “These students were amazing! Later that spring, Kendra was named Editor of the Year, and the paper won first place at the annual Wilkes University Journalism Conference besting dozens of newspapers across the region.”
Years after her graduation Kendra still remembers the impact Morgan had on her as a high school student.
“It says a lot about a teacher when you can recall their influence on you nearly 20 years later!” Kendra said. “I still have the customized Planet Wildcat blanket she had made for me as a graduation gift, too.”
Kendra discussed her experiences with Morgan at Western Wayne.
“Mrs. Morgan was a teacher who made me believe in myself. Curiosity, an interest in politics, and a love of writing led me to pursue journalism where I first worked closely with Mrs. Morgan as the editor of Planet Wildcat. We faced some challenges then, including having to rebuild an entire newspaper quickly,” Kendra explained.
“Not everyone can successfully lead young students through challenge or adversity, but Mrs. Morgan did. She was selfless enough to ensure our hard work was recognized and that we got the support we needed to keep Planet Wildcat going. This helped build an eager work ethic and confidence. There is no doubt working with her on Planet Wildcat helped prepare me to study and successfully find employment within journalism later,” Kendra continued. “ And though I don’t work in journalism these days, I still use the curiosity, candor, and communication skills she taught me so long ago in connecting with people around the world with my work in the specialty coffee industry.”
Morgan is extremely proud of all of the work she did with students like Kendra over the years in the newspaper at Western Wayne.
“One of the biggest accomplishments in my educational career was taking the school newspaper to a high level of achievement where we regularly won first place awards in total newspaper and also individual staff entries of virtually every high school journalism competition on international, national, and state levels,” Morgan said. “I had the opportunity to advise incredibly talented and ambitious students who have succeeded in varied arenas in life since graduation, many of whom keep in close contact with me.”
Mrs. Morgan has a long history with the newspaper at Western Wayne. She did not start the club but advised it for 22 years. Under her direction, the newspaper was moved from a paper of a few papers just typed in a page copied in the school copier to one laid out electronically with a publishing program and printed professionally.
“I found a mentor, a retired journalism teacher who had won the Dow Jones Journalism Adviser Award which is a pretty weighty distinction,” Morgan explained. “I would send our printed paper to him, and he would red-pen critique it and return that with pages of notes. He helped us to concentrate on one or two improvements at a time. This not only moved us to an award-winning publication, it also taught the kids excellent journalistic skills. When they went off to join staffs or study writing at their colleges, they often told me that they were tops in their abilities.”
Along with her accomplishments in the classroom and with the newspaper she loved, Morgan also started a club at Western Wayne from the ground up called Girls Lead. Morgan got the idea from her daughter who was studying Gender in Economics at Barnard College. Her daughter was studying gender inequalities prior to the Me, Too Movement. Morgan and her daughter felt like they had some solid ideas to empower young women at Western Wayne, so Morgan approached her principal to ask permission to start the club.
At first, the group experienced pushback from about 100 male students at the school. However, Morgan’s club president was well-prepared with an informative presentation, and then they followed up with inclusive educational activities for the student body and staff which quelled much of the pushback. It should be noted that both males and females were allowed to be members of Girls Lead.
Morgan recalls some highlights of the Girls Lead Club’s successes.
“The club conducted a highly successful fundraiser and yearly drive for women in shelters,” Morgan explained. “One year we bought packages of underwear which the shelter manager told me they would give to rape victims in the hospital.”
Along with leading clubs and programs at Western Wayne, Morgan was also highly involved for about twenty years in planning field trips for the students in her English classes.
Morgan and the late James Rebar who taught alongside her in the department for many years worked together on this endeavor that gave so many students a chance to experience Broadway shows in New York City that would not have otherwise had the opportunity to go.
“We each had our favorite plays. Jim’s was Titanic with incredible scenery including a sinking ship,” Moran explained. “My favorite was Once on this Island because of its life-affirming message and upbeat calypso music. The real joy for us was gifting the experience to our students. We reached many students who were not in clubs that sponsored trips like this and who did not travel to NYC with family. One student was in awe at seeing the ESPN Center in person which really made our day. The extensive planning work required was worthwhile because of the impact seeing Broadway live had on these students.”
A recent 2020 Western Wayne graduate who shares Morgan’s love for Broadway Sydney Peet recalls the special experiences she had with Morgan throughout her high school career.
“The best way I can describe Marianne Morgan is enigmatic. She is always presenting surprising new facets of herself. Students were consistently shocked each time she brought up a new story from her past – stories of Vice Presidents, campaign buttons, the FBI, and nationwide recognition. She was perhaps the best teacher I have had the privilege of learning from. She encouraged not just academic growth but also consistently pushed her students to be the best person they could be. I spent many hours in her classroom, reviewing drafts of the literary magazine, preparing care packages to be donated to local women’s shelters, and eating the most marvelous banana pudding. The banana pudding must have been crafted by angels themselves; it was seriously THAT good,” Peet said recalling the many thoughtful things Morgan would do for her students.
Of course, Morgan also has many of her own special memories from her time teaching in the classroom at Western Wayne.
“My favorite moments have been when teaching creative writing, particularly college application essays. Through teaching these and helping my own children apply to college, I grew passionate about the college application process, reading a dozen or so books about the steps to successful applications from choosing coursework to helping students develop strong community service linked to their interests to writing a creative essay as a means of introduction to the college admissions staff,” Morgan explained. “Ultimately, I even began a college counseling service and through this have helped numerous students from many different school districts match with a suitable colleges and graduate schools and also secure scholarships.”
Former student Caroline Davis fondly remembers learning about writing from Morgan.
“When learning initial grammatical rules, Mrs. Morgan told us we weren’t ‘allowed’ to use unique punctuation and language that we were reading in American novels because we had to master the basics first,” Davis explained her disappointment about this initial lesson. “I was a little upset at the time of her saying that (why couldn’t I put a semicolon wherever I wanted?), but I soon found out that learning those basic rules set me ahead of my peers in both college and beyond.”
Davis explained how Morgan’s lessons have impacted her throughout her evolving career path.
“Currently, I work remotely for a children’s clothing start-up,” Davis said. “I am in charge of their social media and approving email copy that goes out to our subscribers. My boss later told me she chose me over another applicant for this position because of my incredible attention to detail and ability to find grammatical mistakes that others missed. I owe this completely to Mrs. Morgan.”
Davis wishes Morgan the best in her retirement and wants her to know the significant impact her class had on her life.
“I hope in retirement, that Mrs. Morgan is able to do everything which makes her happy. I enjoy watching her incredible children succeed on Facebook,” Davis said. “She is truly a diamond in the rough that was high school. She pushed every student to be their best selves and gave each and every one of use the tools to succeed.”
2019 Western Wayne Alumni Sydney Peet remembers some advice that Morgan gave her class, and she is sure that Morgan is following it now in her retirement.
“Most importantly, I remember Mrs. Morgan telling my sophomore American Literature class about a student she had taught years prior. ‘He spent all his time working to save up for a new car and then once he bought it, he had no time to drive it,’ she told us. This story wasn’t just about some workaholic kid, but about the importance of enjoying life. Hard work may get you material desires, but it will never guarantee the true enjoyment that the tiniest, most-fleeting moments in life can bring. Her class was full of those moments. Lessons interrupted with honest laughter, life advice, memorable anecdotes, and clever witticisms, as well as never ending motivation and support, filled her small, blue classroom. The absolute integrity and excitement she brought to the teaching profession will be sorely missed.” The entire Western Wayne School District wishes Morgan the best in her retirement.