Matthew Morrison: the Man, the Myth, the Legend
May 10, 2018
April’s Staff Member of the Month is Matthew Morrison, who–if you’ll recall–was September’s Staff Member of the Month. Morrison is the first staff member to win this prestigious award twice in the same school year. Since this popular Social Studies teacher was already covered for his September award (which you can find here: https://theflucobeat.com/news/2017/09/15/staff-member-of-the-month-matthew-morrison/ ) we, the Fluco Beat editorial staff, decided to focus on a more in-depth look at some things that might surprise you about Morrison.
As some of Morrison’s APUSH (Advanced Placement US History) students may know, he came from humble beginnings. One of his most notable earlier professions included jobs at both popsicle/ice cream and potato chip factories. “I worked there because I was trying to make a living. I had long hair and refused to cut it, so factory work was pretty much all I could get at the time,” Morrison said.
Though work at the factories rewarded the young Morrison with low wages and a dull experience, he said he did receive “free ice cream and pops” for his hard work.
After his factory endeavors, he turned his career path toward teaching. Morrison credited his teaching style to the influences of Tom Muir and Mary Tarver.
Muir was a Fluvanna teacher when Morrison first arrived at FCHS and helped guide him in teaching since he had no previous experience with the exception of being a graduate teaching assistant at ODU. “He was a great teacher. He was very kind to me, and I feel like I learned from the best,” Morrison said.
Tarver was his high school history teacher who inspired his love of history, as well as a desire to further pursue academics. “She inspired me to be a lifelong learner and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude,” said Morrison.
Morrison teaches a variety of history classes at the high school, but he’s most famous for his work in APUSH and American Studies (a combined class of APUSH and AP Language and Composition). Students receive either a year-long or semester dose of learning from Morrison– renowned among Flucos for his legendary lectures–all in preparation for a very difficult AP exam at the end of the year.
“The hardest part of teaching an AP class is grading the essays,” Morrison said. “They take a long time and it can be tedious.” Luckily, for the American Studies course, Morrison has another teacher to work alongside: Victoria Zavadsky, known as “Ms. Z” among students. Zavadsky teaches the English portion of American Studies, which provides students with advanced writing practice and analytical skills. “ It’s definitely easier to teach with Z. She’s a great teacher, one of the best I’ve ever been around, so having her teach students how to write is an enormous benefit to me.”
A common question for Staff Member of the Month winners is their favorite moment in their careers. However, the Fluco Beat editors chose to ask Morrison about the most embarrassing moment he’s ever had in his time teaching. “Well, way back when I first started, I had an incident that was very embarrassing. On the way to work while driving, I was eating a chocolate chip muffin. Well, apparently a chocolate chip had fallen down into my seat and I had sat on it all the way to school. I was unaware that I was walking into school with a giant brown streak on my backside, which looked curiously similar to me having…umm…used the restroom in my pants. Now no one told me about it until the last block of the day when a kid asked me, ‘Uh Mr. Morrison, did you have some kind of accident in your pants?’ and then a chorus of laughter erupted. Then one girl said to me, ‘It’s OK, Mr. Morrison, you probably just sat on some chocolate.’ That was a little embarrassing. Especially since I’d been walking around like that all day,” said Morrison.
When asked about his favorite historical figure, Morrison says “it’s got to be Lincoln. He was interesting, intelligent, extraordinary and a selfless leader of his people.” Although Lincoln is his favorite, a variety of others like Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, F. Douglass, Voltaire, T. Roosevelt, Tecumseh, FDR, and Sitting Bull are at the top of his list.
Any student who has taken APUSH knows of Morrison’s admiration for Ken Burns. “Ken Burns is my boy!” said Morrison. “He’s the greatest historical documentary filmmaker of all time. He doesn’t use cheesy recreation scenes, he always has excellent voices portraying historical figures in their own words, and he’s a great storyteller, which is what great historians are supposed to be.” While Burns has many great films, his Civil War series is Morrison’s favorite.
When Morrison isn’t spending copious amounts of time teaching, he enjoys hobbies like “listening to great rock n’ roll and reading books.” In addition, his current favorite TV shows are either Game of Thrones or Shameless, with his favorite series of all-time being Breaking Bad. He said his favorite movie is The Big Lebowski.
Morrison ended his interview with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson, one of his favorite authors: “No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion. Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” Morrison interprets the quote as “this is what life is about: taking chances, putting yourself out there, and if sometimes things don’t go your way, just learn from the experience and then move on to a new one, but don’t be afraid to take the chance and fail. It’s the only way you learn and it’s the only way to get the most out of your time here on Earth.”