In this instalment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating the work of Natalie Morgan-Cook, 2019 OTIP Teaching Award recipient in the Secondary Teacher Category, at Brooklin High School in the Durham District School Board (DDSB).
One word comes up again and again when her fellow staff and students are asked to describe Natalie Morgan-Cook: “compassionate.” She constantly shows genuine care and concern for both the students she works with and the families of those students, extending her positive energy and enthusiasm to the entire school community. She will not give up on students, and makes certain their needs have been looked after and they have what they need to be successful.
Natalie Morgan-Cook is Head of Guidance and Co-operative Education at Brooklin High School, as well as a peer tutor advisor. She is an educator who prepares students for leading productive lives and assists them with their career choices and timetables. Most crucially, she uses her reassuring demeanour and calming presence to equip students with the skillset to make decisions for themselves, so that they can cope with everyday life in healthy and responsible ways. Her guidance and career education programs actively involve students in inquiry, research, problem-solving and decision-making processes related to planning for post-secondary education, training, and/or workplace, honouring and respecting the individual agency within each learner.
Natalie is the kind of educator students simply enjoy being with. Kevin Kerr, a fellow teacher, notes, “Her biggest impact is making the students feel comfortable.” Whether she’s helping marginalized students, support groups, or leadership programs, Natalie makes sure her students know that she respects them as they are, and that they can count on her to help them, no matter the issue.
For her, the most important thing to note as a teacher is that students will most remember how they felt in your classroom. “You are teaching children, and they need to feel safe and important and reflected in your curriculum and that they are seen in what they’re learning, and their voices are heard, and they matter,” she says. “That is going to make the biggest impact on them.”
While Natalie considers herself fortunate to have her position – she claims she “officially [has] the best job in the world” – it is the other members of her school community who are truly the fortunate ones, for they are able to experience her kindness and positivity first-hand.
“She’s the biggest motivator in the school,” says Lily Surette, a student who was able to overcome severe anxiety issues with the compassionate help of Natalie. “[She] totally changed my life and put me on the right path, and I can’t thank [her] enough for that.”