David Morrill was well on his way to becoming a physicist and working for the government, right up until his senior year of college, when he was asked to step in and teach a freshman physics lab and found his true calling: teaching.
Now, after teaching at Jordan High for 30 years, Morrill has been named of one of five Utah finalists to receive a 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The Award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government to science and math teachers in grades K-12. Up to 108 of the awards are bestowed every year as a way to recognize teachers who develop and implement exemplary programs that enhance student learning, according to the Utah State Board of Education, which announced the finalists on Tuesday, Aug. 27.
“It’s a great honor to be considered for this, and I think it shows we have great teachers,” Morrill said. “I feel a little inadequate because I believe there are a lot of teachers at Jordan who are so good at what they do and I just am really impressed with the quality of teachers I get to interact with.”
Morrill says he has always been fascinated with the laws of physics. Every day, he demonstrates principles of physics in action, and discusses with his students how their predictions of what may occur are often misguided. The concepts of projectile motion, inertia and mass often surprise his students, he says. But he loves nothing more than to discuss mathematical relationships, circumference, diameter and Pi with his class.
“I have found I really, really enjoy teaching,” Morrill says. “I know that every day there is somebody’s life that I do touch and change, and 99 times out of 100 I never know who that is because they don’t come and tell me. But I do know it’s going on, and I have found that is the reason I really enjoy teaching, because I do have an effect on student’s lives every single day.”
A national selection committee is set to review the finalists for the Presidential Award, and it is expected the winners will be announced in the summer or fall of 2020. Of the five finalists representing Utah, two will be chosen for the award and receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a paid trip to Washington D.C. to attend recognition events and professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
This isn't the first recognition that Morrill has received for his extraordinary teaching abilities. Below is a video spotlighting his receipt of a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education.