After 17 years in the classroom, Morgan Vlassopoulos believes in service to others. She exhibits this not only through teaching but in assisting her colleagues and family members.
“I also feel very strongly about showing appreciation to those who make others’ lives easier,” Vlassopoulos said. “I model that for my students so they, too, can see how important it is to be gracious, kind, and thankful.”
Vlassopoulos, 38, began her career in Merrillville teaching math to sixth-graders at Merrillville Intermediate School. She currently teaches fourth-graders at John Wood Elementary School, where she and Jamie Jongsma co-teach reading, writing, language, math, science, and social studies.
She is a member of the 2020 class in The Times 20 Under 40 program, which recognizes outstanding young professionals in Northwest Indiana.
“I enjoy teaching because I like being around children and their innate curiosity of the world around them,” she said. “Seeing a child’s eyes light up when he or she solves a challenging task is priceless."
Dedication to craft
“Miss V” to her students, Vlassopoulos has been a part of P.E.A.R.L.S, an organization for girls at the intermediate school. She has also served on the school corporation’s math committee, report card committee, state and local ILEARN committees, her building’s Continuous Improvement Council, bus duty, and as Student council sponsor.
Having spent her professional career solely in Merrillville schools, Vlassopoulos, a Cedar Lake resident, said she wanted to be a teacher “for as long as I can remember.”
Vlassopoulos feels her dedication to her craft is evidenced “in my willingness to assist my colleagues, to serve on different committees, to answer emails after hours, and to share my personal contact information with parents. I am very much a team player.”
On a more personal level, she added, “My siblings and I were always taught by our parents that our efforts will lead to our successes. This means having perseverance, striving for excellence and finding solutions to any challenges that might come my way."
Vlassopoulos said the toughest part of her job currently is dealing with COVID-19. She and Jongsma try to bring their students, whenever possible, into small groups for mini-workshops to explain the material. Additionally, the co-teachers are trying to present the material in as many ways as possible and keep the classroom routine as close to a normal schedule as possible.
“Generally speaking,” Vlassopoulos said, “the toughest part of teaching is leading my students to the realization that it is their efforts that will determine their success. An addendum to that is to help them see that comparing themselves to others is not always helpful, as success can come at different times for different people. I hope this leads them to becoming lifelong learners who embrace, rather than avoid, challenges.”
Learning to teach
Vlassopoulos said her future plans include pursuing a master’s degree in education, possibly administration, “so I can continue to learn and be a better teacher for my students’ sake.”
Vlassopoulos cited several role models in her life, starting with her father, Alex Vlassapoulos, who “always taught us to work hard and showed my siblings and me what it meant to work hard for what you wanted.”
Vlassopoulos cited guidance from principals Shirley Renner and Mary Hoffman.
“Both of these women offered encouragement and support to my fellow educators and me, which assisted me in gaining knowledge in best practices in education,” Vlassopoulos said. “This, in turn, helped me bring out the best in my students.”
Teachers who influenced Vlassopoulos included Lola Caldwell, Victoria Thanos and Ericka Hightower.
“Through the assistance of these women,” Vlassopoulos said, “I learned how to best meet students’ individual needs, as well as how to help our students form a sense of teamwork and cohesiveness.”
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