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2018 ELC Foundation Champions in Education Morphews carry passion for students

Susan and the late Larry Morphew will be honored in September

August 26, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

As local students start another school year, Sue Morphew says that's the moment she misses teaching.

"The first few days and few weeks of school I want that magic," Sue said.

Sue and Larry Morphew are the 2018 honorees from the Estherville Lincoln Central Community Schools Foundation for Champions in Education. The banquet is Sept. 15 at the VFW, serving Donzel's Delicious Pasta Buffet at 5:30 p.m. with a trivia contest beginning at 7 p.m.

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Sue's husband, Larry, died Jan. 21. At his wish, there were no services, and he continued his gifts to science education even after death by donating his body to the University of Iowa.

Sue and Larry were married in 1961, and graduated from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake in 1970. Sue took a job teaching the fourth grade in Ida Grove that year, but there was no job there for Larry. Meanwhile, Larry had been in conversations in Estherville, and after St. Patrick's Catholic School closed, a number of teaching positions opened up.

Larry began as a fifth grade teacher, and an open space team teaching classroom opened up at Maniece Elementary. Sue moved to Lincoln Elementary to teach third grade in 1972 while Larry moved through fifth through eighth grades in middle school science and math.

Sue said she would have hesitated to be in the spotlight for the Champions in Education honor if they were not also honoring Larry. Larry enjoyed the spotlight.

"He was a spectacular performer, and a real showman with all those experiments," Sue said.

Sue said after they retired in 2000, Larry most missed the rocket launches and big, splashy things of teaching hands-on science to young people.

Former student Dale Kepler said one memory of Mr. Morphew was, "when we would build Estes model rockets ruding our science segment regarding space and NASA with the pinnacle being launch day."

Kepler said Mr. Morphew's influence continues to this day. "Mr. Morphew was the first teacher/person to really instruct about the impacts of pollution on the environment and the concept of recycling. To this day, whenever I place items in a recycle bin I think of Mr. Morphew."

Sue said, in addition to the magic of the first days of a school year, she missed the family dinner table gatherings, with each family member (including children Mindy, Alan, and Chris) talking about the day.

"All five of us were in school, so everyone had a school story to tell. As the children grew up, they were very busy. Al was off to a music rehearsal or performance, Mindy had cheerleading and softball, and there was something every night," Sue said.

"It was a special position in the community, to both be teachers and have our kids in the schools with us," Sue said.

Sue recalled an incident in which Mindy and Al, then about 15 and 13 years old, were contemplating sneaking in to an R rated movie, an activity for which you had to be 17 years old.

Al and Mindy decided against it, because a bevy of Sue's third graders were in line for the movie, and thought the third graders would tell on them.

What made Larry a Champion in Education, besides teaching, Sue said, was his talent for negotiation.

"Larry and Gary Brown negotiated the first master contract. We had a state legislator then who was dead set against teachers having bargaining power. He laughed at their points and said he was not going to change his mind," Sue said.

The teachers from the area got together and persuaded a man from Spencer to run, and that candidate won the seat and helped make a difference for teachers' bargaining power.

"Larry and [Brown] worked very hard for this, and a lot of other people worked hard, too. Larry liked negotiating. People would say, 'the teachers don't care' or say other things about teachers, and we could find one person who was an example of what they were saying, but they weren't looking at all the other teachers and staff in the district who did care and did put themselves into the work," Sue said.

Reflecting on their time teaching, Sue said, "We had fun things to remember. After we retired, we would still tell each other funny stories of things that had happened in our classrooms. I'm glad we both did it, because all summer long the five of us were all together," Sue said, adding that Larry was actually often out painting houses, taking photographs, and doing other things to earn extra money.

After retirement, Sue and Larry both substituted, with Sue continuing longer than Larry. Sue taught with Sally Bohmer at the alternative school, but decided to not renew her certificate when it expired.

"I would have kept going and going," Sue said.

She still tutors, mostly in high school geometry and algebra.

Sue and Larry spent the 2000s traveling to Italy three times, visiting Al when he was in southern California, visiting Mindy and her family in Colorado.

Sue and Larry also created arrows into the future for education. Chris is Dean of the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Mindy teaches in public school and is an adjunct at the University of Colorado in Boulder, supervising and mentoring student teachers. Al teaches voice and guitar lessons here in Estherville.

"They all value education and learning," Sue said.



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