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Longtime Mercer Island schools employee had a concerto allegro model for teaching

Longtime Mercer Island School District employee Kathy Morrison is retiring this year. - Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter
Longtime Mercer Island School District employee Kathy Morrison is retiring this year.
— image credit: Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter

In her two decades working for the Mercer Island School District, Kathy Morrison has worked with thousands of students and their families and has watched a community grow.

Morrison, the current director of Learning Services for MISD, will be retiring at the end of this school year after working 21 years on Mercer Island.

“I started as the music teacher at all three elementary schools and wound up being the permanent music teacher at Lakeridge,” she said. “Then I became the associate principal for the three schools and then the principal at Island Park. I taught in four districts before coming here.”

Morrison said it was beginning to feel like time to retire.

“I’m the right age to retire. Why not? It was a hard decision, honestly, because I have really, really loved my job, and I love this position. It’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s just that I’m feeling the pull of family. I have two grandbabies due within a week of each other. I’m also looking forward to getting back to playing the piano.”

But after all of her years in the schools, she said she’ll miss the families and the connections she has made.

“I will definitely miss the staff and the community and the kids. I’ll also miss the challenging work. There is a real joy in doing something that is definitely challenging and that makes a difference. It’s so different (changing over the years).”

Of course, the district would be nothing without students to teach, and Morrison said the kids on Mercer Island are of a special variety.

“The kids themselves are amazing. Education is a value for our community. They come to school ready to learn, ready to go from day one. It’s wonderful to see,” said Morrison.

Morrison said that over time she has watched students grow up and become parents themselves with students in Island schools.

“I think that’s been the other piece of my job that has been wonderful, to see the kids grow up to being adults and parents themselves.

“I’ve been a community member for 30 years, and we raised all four kids through the Mercer Island schools system. Now, my own children’s friends’ children are coming to school here,” she said.

Along the way, each position offered Morrison something new, and looking back, something to be proud of.

As the music teacher, it was working to get keyboards into the classrooms that has become a springboard for students going into the district’s very successful band and choir programs. As a principal, she said working to pull together the Hand in Hand program, to help pay for extra staff. At her current position, the need to see the bigger picture and support  the hard work the teachers and staff do to stay on top of education has been fruitful.

She has found it rewarding to support the district’s vision for individualized learning. The effort is geared toward enhancing curriculum in the manner of the district’s 2020 Vision, to make learning more personalized and individualized.

Morrison said that it is a team effort. “The principals and the other directors are just so dedicated and put in so many hours making sure we’re heading down the right path and doing everything we can to support our teachers.”

Over the years, working closely with the PTA presidents and committees was a joy, she added.

Though there are many people who would want to say thank you to her, Morrison simply wants to give a thank you back.

“Thank you for making Mercer Island the community that it is,” she said. “I feel just so darn fortunate to have worked here for a majority of my career in a variety of positions. My administrative assistant, Jane Kantor — her work I think is sometimes hidden from view and yet so rock solid. It’s just an amazing community; everyone is great,” she said.

Morrison’s position will be filled by current Lakeridge Elementary principal Fred Rundle.

“He’s so well prepared to come into this position; he’s going to just do fabulous. (The position) just broadens your world to go from one school to all the schools. He’ll have fun and he’ll do just great,” said Morrison.

Rundle is set to begin the position on July 1.

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