Morgan Koss: Making a connection

Hannah Preston, Staff Writer

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What makes a great teacher?

Is it knowing everything there is to know about the subject that the teacher is teaching?

Is it having many representations of a lesson so the student will always be able to understand?

Is it having open office hours so the student can know when he can come in for help?

Sure, those are all attributes for a good teacher.  In order to be successful in bringing a classroom full of high school kids further in their studies, a teacher must be adaptable and able to bring a fully developed level of understanding to the subject at hand.

But what about beyond the educational layer?

New Jersey native and fourth-year Spanish teacher Morgan Koss came to Jacksonville High School quite unexpectedly.  “In 2011, I was applying everywhere in Illinois for jobs.  I applied for the job in Jacksonville two or three weeks before the school year started, and I interviewed on a Tuesday afternoon while I was still at my summer job in New Jersey.  Mr. McGiles offered me the job the next day (after Freshman Only Day), and I started the following Monday.  The rest is history!”

Since her arrival, Koss has provided one of the few sources of stability that the Foreign Language department has seen since the previous long-term Spanish teacher retired after the 2011-2012 school year.  Even after the record of five different Spanish teachers within three years, the majority being fresh out of school themselves, she has remained optimistic and continued to teach the way she saw fit.  “My biggest influence to really pursue teaching was one of my high school teachers, Ms. Houston.  She was my teacher for three of my four years of high school and my graduating class’s sponsor,” she claims.  “I loved her positive approach to teaching and how she connected with her students.”

Señorita Koss has certainly carried on this “positive approach,” building lasting and reliable relationships with students.  Having an incredible reputation with past students, most of them have some kind of deeper connection than simply a student-teacher relationship.  Students being able to trust the people at the front of their classrooms aids in the learning environment, and that comes from Koss’s desire to do what she loves.  “Even when I was little I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, although I originally thought I would be an elementary school teacher,” she says.  “I love seeing my students work hard and succeed.  My favorite part about teaching is when a student has been struggling with a concept and finally witnessing a ‘light-bulb moment.’”

Despite being far away from her family and friends on the East Coast, Koss holds those relationships close to her heart.  “My mother has—despite being far away—always been there to support me, and she works endlessly to take care of our family,” she says.  “Determination and support from my friends and family has gotten me here today.”

So what is it that makes a truly great teacher?  Morgan Koss definitely knows the answer.