“I always say, there is no better feeling a teacher gets than the feeling of knowing that he/she would have brought a child from nothing to something.”
By Rehanna Ramsay
There are those who think that the expression “once the mind conceives it, you can achieve it” is a cliché. However, for this week’s Special Person, those words prove true.
Orin Morgan has spent more than two decades of his life moulding the minds and character of the nation’s children.
His unique style of teaching has earned him the Golden Rule International Award by IChange Nations, an affiliate of the United Nations. And his students are a testament to his achievement. Some of them, as young as 12 years old, have taken up the challenge to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate [CSEC] and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination [CAPE], and have secured Grade One passes in the areas of Mathematics and Principles of Accounts.
But as an educator and parent, ‘Sir’ Morgan has evolved from rather humble beginnings to what he says has been the most amazing journey to making his mark in the field of academia.
Although he was born the eldest of five children in the village of Buxton, East Coast Demerara, to parents Winston and Beverley Savory, the young Morgan spent his early years at 24 Princes Street, Lodge, Georgetown. The family later moved to Victor Street, Lodge. There he attended the Enterprise Primary School in D’Urban Backlands and after writing Common Entrance in 1992 he secured a place at Richard Ishmael Secondary.
“I later attended the Critchlow Labour College, attaining a Certificate in Industrial Relations,” Morgan related.
It was while still studying at the College that he had his teaching experience which later led to his career taking off. Morgan discovered his passion for teaching after his then teacher, Ms. Annette Pickett, asked him to work as a volunteer Principles of Accounts teacher at his Alma Mater.
“I worked in the Third Form level for two terms and was later offered a position as a Temporary Qualified Master in September 1998. It was at this juncture in my journey that I recognized that students needed more. They needed help and more so, they needed my help,” he added.
Recognizing this need and knowing there was no scope within the public education system to address the needs of the students, Morgan started extra lessons classes with the aim of offering students something different from what a 9:00 am – 3:00 pm classroom offered.
The vision to address individual needs started with five students at a bottom house at lot 183 Da Silva Street, Newtown. The place was secured for his former teacher and then Head of Department, Annette Pickett.
Morgan recalled that the $500 per month that students were asked to pay then, was not always forthcoming and many months’ rent, the $6,000 for the location, were paid from his own $18,000 per month salary. “As a result, I would often walk to lessons from my Victor Street, Lodge home, since my salary barely covered expenses,” Morgan recalled. “To say it took grit and fortitude to overcome the challenges, will be a gross understatement but in reality, those are the two words that can really describe my journey, I believe, which is far from over.”
“Also, my adoring and supportive parents have been an anchor for me,” the teacher added.
The challenge, however, did not deter the tutor. In fact, it motivated him.
“Because I could see the success through my students, they were moving from a place where they were once challenged to a stage where they displayed levels of mastery,” Morgan shared with pride.
Yet, he encountered situations that some may have seen as setbacks. It, nevertheless, worked to his advantage. “One parent approached me to say she was moving her child to another location where she can do more than one subject at lessons,” Morgan recalled.
“This challenged me…. My response to this was to start a summer programme, and in 1999 I began the first summer school. I was the only teacher, teaching Mathematics, Business, Social Studies, Principles of Accounts and Office Administration. The students had a 15-minutes recess as one class moved into the other,” the educator recounted.
FINDING A PLACE
After working at the Da Silva Street location for three years, things soon changed.
Morgan was forced to move his classes to another location, because the landlady was converting the downstairs into a dwelling place.
“I began using the school’s facilities for lessons, but then there was a Ministry of Education policy that did not permit extra lessons to be held on the schools’ premises. This caused me to be displaced once again. By this time the classes had grown to over 30 students, and I was now doing fourth and fifth form Office Administration and Principles of Business,” he related.
Packing up and moving again, Morgan was able to, with the assistance of Mr. Colwin King [a former Guyana Teachers’ Union President], work from a church building, he controlled in Charlotte Street.
“Our stay there lasted seven months, since we were forced to move because the environment attracted vagrants who would pester the children for handouts, much to their discomfort. I’m sure by now the image is clear. We packed up and moved yet again, and I ended up subletting a space with a colleague, a location that is now a popular disco. Well, the move from there was one of the most embarrassing instances of my life: the owners of the building came back to Guyana and ordered us out, locking the gates and leaving the students standing outside.”
“It was at this point I felt lost and asked myself, “Lord what do we do now?” and “what have I gotten myself into?”
“We were stalled for a while and my 30 students began to decrease, but I kept hope alive and once again God saw me through. With the assistance of Ms. Letisha Lake, former head teacher of Tutorial and St. Mary’s High school, I was able to continue my journey using the downstairs of her home,” Morgan recounted.
This move saw the growth of not only the student population, but also the inclusion of days other than the Saturday classes, to accommodate the learning needs.
By now the class had grown to 50, with students from varied secondary schools in the city.
“We now had proof that progress was taking place; students began to show clear signs of achievement. Their confidence level was high and they were moving from the level of mastering concepts. The satisfaction was tremendous, since these were students who were considered to be below par, but were now showing signs of mastery. One case in question was with a student from St. Mary’s High who had difficulties with reading and writing, and I worked with him in the fourth form. He went on to write CSEC and secured a grade one in Principles of Accounts, Principles of Business and Mathematics with straight ‘A’ profiles,” Morgan shared.
In the midst of success, the challenge of finding a place was still evident.
He noted that “after two years in that Bent Street location, another move happened. My landlord wanted the space for alternative purposes, and so it was time to pack up and leave again.”
At this time Morgan was attending the Cyril Potter College of Education, which spanned the period 2003-2006, where he majored in Business Studies and minored in English. He later acquired an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) level 2 certificate.
“Being as benevolent as she was, Ms. Lake allowed us to take her furniture, but we had no place to go,” he recalled, adding, “I felt this was my time to call it a day, but quitting was not an option since the responsibility of family demanded the extra cash.”
Reaching out to a friend, he was promised the use of a backyard, but his landlord did not give permission. “So here I was on the hunt again for space to rent,” Morgan recalled.
His friend searched Campbellville, looking for a place to ren,t when he happened upon a location at John Street. “Ms Pamela Bridgewater, former head teacher of Central and Diamond Secondary Schools, agreed to the rental of her downstairs at Lot 24 John Street, Campbellville, which turned out to be the catalyst to it all. For it is from this bottom house that the success story took shape.
At this location, the classes’ sizes increased and so did the demand for teachers. Maths and English teachers were hired and so were teachers for other subject areas. As the years went by the operations of Morgan’s Learning Centre (MLC) (the name it was registered as in 2007) grew and so did its reputation.”
A UNIQUE INSTITUTION
According to the teacher, MLC recognized the need for a system that was unique and one that catered for students’ needs in a society, especially for those considered slow and indisciplined, or were often left behind. He said that in view of this, the Centre accepted students from all over the country. She revealed that “Students came from as far as Bartica, Essequibo and Linden. They stayed with relatives in the city just to attend classes at the bottom house.”
With a “no-nonsense” approach, the transformation process was taking on a life of its own and students who once struggled in school now had found new esteem; they believed in themselves and their ability to yield perform well.
“Students, who some persons thought would never amount to anything, were now beginning to have a better image of themselves. They now had the confidence to believe they could be anything they wanted to be. I always say, there is no better feeling a teacher gets than the feeling of knowing that he/she would have brought a child from nothing to something,” Morgan reflected.
STILL, I RISE
It was because of the type of satisfaction Morgan got, that the motto of the Centre – “STILL I RISE”, from the iconic poet Maya Angelou, was derived.
“It was then, and still is, my view that students from MLC need some kind of motivation and inspiration. I want them to be constantly reminded that no matter where they come from and no matter what their adversities, they too like the Phoenix can rise from the ashes,” Morgan shared.
The motto hung on a sign in the middle of the bottom house at the institution’s John Street location. “It is there for every child see, once he/she walks into our space there, “said Morgan.
As the years rolled by, the Lot 24 John Street location could no longer house the operations of MLC. Progress and growth were evident and expansion became necessary.
He explained that expansion was facilitated by the purchase of a plot of land at Lot 46 D’Urban Street, Lodge, that now houses a spanking, new facility. MLC’s new building, commonly referred to as the “edifice”, is school to over 200 students and offers lessons to over 400. .
The aim is to reach more young people who possess that ‘fire’ for success and who desire to change their situation despite challenges.
“It’s my view that even as students swipe their badges at the gate and enter our air-conditioned classrooms, and they traverse the halls of our space at the edifice, they would experience the comfort and be motivated to achieve their dreams. They should be able to draw strength and believe that ‘if ‘Sir’ Morgan can do it, so can I’.”
He added, “My achievement is a blessing from God that clearly illustrates no matter where you came from, or what are the adversities you face in life, with persistence, commitment, determination and discipline, you will rise.”
‘Sir’ Morgan is aware that every achievement begins with the first step, and no matter how small it may seem, or the challenges faced, faith, determination and God’s guidance, “all things are possible.”
Still continuing his journey with a passion for educating the nation’s children, ‘Sir’ Morgan says he is fully aware that there is no ‘I’ in team. And it is for this reason that he acknowledges the efforts of his parents, close family members, his children – Michael and Makayla Morgan – and their mother, all of whom have borne the brunt of his struggles and have loved him the way they have in spite of everything.
“My siblings have also been very supportive. The staff and teachers at MLC, both locations, have all played a part in this effort, and I am certain none of this would have been possible without their unfailing support and dedication,” Morgan shared.
Despite the bottom house circumstances, Morgan noted that the parents of his students have been asked to attend meetings, support extracurricular activities, and they have always been very supportive. “I also strongly believe that it is my students’ parent’s faith in us, that we at MLC are good at what we do; that has also contributed to our success. Their support at regular meetings and other functions have made us the success story that we are,” he added.
Moreover, Morgan asserted that “In all things, I give thanks to God, knowing that without his guidance none of this would have been possible.”
“As a child, my Christian values were instilled at the First Baptist Church in Creen Street, Werk-en-Rust. As I grew older my faith in God never wavered, neither did my Christian values. I still believe in the power of prayer, hence my continued attendance to church,” disclose ‘Sir’ Morgan, who currently fellowships at the Dominion Household Ministries.
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