Former East Ridge teacher working to motivate students, educators

Former East Ridge teacher working to motivate students, educators

July 17th, 2017 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Christopher Morris has created a rewards-based teaching model he is sharing with other educators.

“I want to help them transform their classrooms. If it can happen with me, it can happen with anybody.”
Christopher Morris

As a math teacher at East Ridge High School three years ago, Christopher Morris was burnt out and so were his students.

"I had lost the passion," Morris said. "And the kids weren't looking forward to class."

Morris began looking for ways to change the culture in his classroom, and decided to start holding a weekly awards ceremony to celebrate his students' personalities, character and interests.

He named the ceremony the Math Morrissey Awards, and at random times throughout the week would jump into character as an awards show host and present a student with a brightly colored certificate while upbeat music played. During the presentation, Morris would highlight what the student did to earn the recognition, which ranged from picking up trash in the classroom to saying something kind to a classmate.

Quickly, the Morrissey Awards became the highlight of the week for students, Morris said, as they were starving for recognition and affirmation.

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To learn more about the Morrisey Model visit

"When you give an award, you're saying, 'This is what I value,'" Morris said Friday, adding how important it was for him to affirm character and not just grades.

Throughout the process, Morris said, he started to love teaching again and watched his relationships deepen with his students.

"I saw how doing this was completely changing me as a person," he said. "... It made me see [my students] differently and pay attention to the unique aspects of who they are and appreciate them."

Seeing the transformation the Morrissey Math Awards made in his classroom, Morris decided in December to leave East Ridge High School and launch the Morrissey Model, a business that helps teachers, schools and businesses develop creative ways to celebrate their students and employees.

Angie Markum, executive directive of Ivy Academy, a public charter school in Soddy-Daisy, said she's seen the power of Morris' work in her own building.

She said after one of her teachers adopted the idea last year, it quickly became a big deal for students.

"It was enjoyable for the whole school," she said.

Markum said many students lack motivation and have a tough time seeing how what they're learning in the classroom will benefit them later in life.

"Teachers need to help them see that, and motivate and encourage them," she added.

But educators often struggle to find the time to develop creative ways to foster character development in their students, she said, and that is why the Morrissey Model is so helpful — because it gives teachers the resources, roadmap and support they need to do it.

At the end of the day, Morris said he hopes he can help educators find creative ways to use their personalities to encourage and motivate students.

"I want to help them transform their classrooms," he said. "... If it can happen with me, it can happen with anybody."

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.