Growing up as one of 11 siblings in Marshfield, Wis., Dranesville Elementary School principal Beverly Morrison knew she had to remember a lot of names from an early age, a skill she retained in her professional life as an educator.
"I think it’s very amazing that she knows every students’ name — first and last," said Dranesville pre-school special education teacher Stephanie Rice of Herndon. "She comes into the classroom and gets down and plays. I’ve never worked for a principal who has done that. She loves kids. I’m going to miss that," said Rice of Morrison’s pending retirement following the close of this school year after 40 years in the business of educating children.
"We’re not letting you leave," said Dranesville librarian Jan Ramp to Morrison as she greeted students on Monday morning, May 13 in the school’s lobby.
"It’s going to be sad," said Dranesville fifth grader Jackson Haskell, 11, a member of the school’s safety patrol. "She’s been here such a long time and she’s really nice," said Haskell, a Herndon resident.
"She stops by the classroom and has made me feel welcome," said first-year Dranesville teacher of first grade Rebecca "Becky" Allison. "She makes sure everything is going OK – very supportive administratively. Her door is always open," said Allison.
"I want to tell two short stories about Dr. Morrison," said Dranesville occupational therapist Susy Nixon of Herndon. "In my job, I travel among schools. When Dr. Morrison learned I was here, she was very welcoming and shared thoughts on the needs of the students. She’s absolutely student centered," she said.
Nixon’s other story regarded her need of a scooter two years ago due to a surgery. "The school made an accommodation. Dr. Morrison asked ‘what do you need,’ and did it. That’s why people like her so much," said Nixon.
"Dr. Morrison brought a lot to this school, such as school-based management — we have councils of teachers. They are part of the decision-making of the school, working on daily operations — lunch, recess and curriculum planning," said Trish Fraker, the school’s music teacher since its opening in 1989. "She’ll be remembered for her open-mindedness to new ideas — an innovative thinker," she said.
BEVERLY MORRISON is in her eighth year at the helm of Dranesville Elementary School. Prior to Dranesville, she worked as coordinator of elementary programs in Area I of the Fairfax County school system. Before that administrative assignment, Morrison helped assist with the transition of having sixth graders attend Holmes Middle School in Alexandria as its assistant principal. Prior to that assignment, Morrison worked as language arts specialist with the Department of Instructional Services. Morrison began her Fairfax County career as a reading teacher at Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna.
While Morrison experienced several schools in the county with various assignments, as a student, she stayed with one school — the University of Wisconsin at Madison, not far from where she grew up. She graduated from Wisconsin in 1962 with a degree in American Institutions and History and was certified to teach. She chose teaching because "in 1962 there were two professions for women — teaching and nursing."
In 1972 Morrison earned a masters from Wisconsin in curriculum and instruction, later earning her doctorate in the same subject matter from the same school.
AS MORRISON heads into retirement, the teacher will once again become the student as she plans to take up golf and reintroduce her husband of 27 years Joel Morrison to the game as well. Joel Morrison is the director of the Center of Mapping at Ohio State University. "We’ve had a commuting marriage for three years," she said.
As Morrison prepares to leave, and as the school year fades away, she takes good memories with her. "What I will miss the most are the interactions with the people in the community, the staff and the students. I will not miss the hassles of making cuts — trying to figure out how to do more with less."
Morrison is also reminded of the changes she has witnessed over the period of a 40-year career. "The impact of technology and the knowledge we’ve gained about how people learn. We can more specifically identify how the brain works and what we can do to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning," she said.
As for the advances in technology, "the computer is so much a part of life — can’t ignore it. I don’t know as much about it as I’d like, but I use it. Two days last week the e-mail was out. I got frustrated — I didn’t have the tools I became accustomed to having," said Morrison.
What Morrison would like to be accustomed to is travel and reading. "I’m an eclectic reader — no one theme in mind," she said. "Jean Auel is a favorite and of course I’ve read everything by John Grisham. I’m looking to read more biographies — Katharine Graham and about different parts of the world, such as the evolution of Africa."
Morrison will travel with her husband to Hungary in September and hopes to visit India, Japan, South Africa, South America and return to China where she has been three times. Whether traveling or not, Morrison can return to her needlework. "I haven’t done that in years."
When Morrison is at home in Reston she can also spend more time with her three grandchildren who live in Silver Spring, Md. with her daughter and son-in-law. Morrison’s three other children reside in Chicago. The majority of Morrison’s family is also living in the Midwest. With the exception of one brother in Houston, one sister lives in Detroit and the remaining eight siblings reside in Wisconsin, as do her parents, married for 63 years.
"It’s been a great career in Fairfax. There are very professional employees in the system and the residents should know they have an excellent resource in the schools," said Morrison.