Westfield Charter Academy opened last year, welcoming Morgan Grifka, first-grade teacher, to the team. Following her graduation from college, she moved to Washington D.C. to complete her Master’s in Elementary Education and Special Education. She then taught special education for three years, where her passion for special education and helping students grew.
“During my time in D.C., I taught in an inclusive setting and provided most of my students' services within their general education classroom,” said Ms. Grifka. “It was through this experience that I learned so much. I was able to work with many different teachers and be a part of their classrooms daily. I picked up things that worked well for them and added them to my teaching toolbox over the years. I truly would not be half the teacher I have become without the support and encouragement of all my colleagues and co-teachers along the way.”
She then moved back to Michigan to find there weren’t any special education positions available, so she started teaching general education in kindergarten and first grade.
“It was during my first year back home that I realized how valuable of an experience it was to teach both general education and special education,” said Ms. Grifka. “I was able to see the ins-and-outs of both teaching positions and my teaching toolbox grew drastically. Having to work in two very different settings was challenging, but beyond rewarding. I found that my background knowledge and experiences teaching special education had, and continue to have, a positive impact on my daily endeavors as a first-grade teacher.”
Ms. Grifka recognizes that every child is unique and has their own story to tell, knowing her students are capable of anything if they are given the correct tools and taught how to use them.
“I am a firm believer that every child deserves a high-quality education,” said Ms. Grifka. “It is my intention to provide all my students with just that. I spend a lot of time each year looking for ways to adjust my instruction and meet each of my students where they are. Of course, this requires a little extra support, patience, and time, but all my kiddos find success as they travel down their own learning journey.”
Because of her experience and passion for special education, Ms. Grifka came into this year with the advantage of knowing how to support all students. She now leads a class of 24 students, one third of whom receive some type of special service.
She strives to get to know each of her students well. She believes supporting her students comes down to relationships and developing a trusting and loving bond between the students and herself.
“In developing these relationships, I get to know the students' interests, their wants and needs, goals, and abilities,” said Ms. Grifka. “I look beyond what they come to me knowing and focus on where they want to end up. We identify ways to learn and grow together. In my classroom, we call ourselves a ‘class family’ and the kiddos truly work together as such. We follow the golden rule and always treat one another the way they want to be treated. They care for each other, they encourage one another, and they always find ways to help their friends out. It is never just me teaching the students – they learn best from each other!”
Ms. Grifka’s impact on her student has not gone unnoticed. She was recently nominated for an Excellence in Education Award through the Michigan Lottery and WZYZ by her dean, Ninfa Mazzola. Ms. Mazzola nominated her because she believes every student deserves a Ms. Grifka. After winning the award, Ms. Grifka received a check for $1,500 and a $500 grant for her classroom. Find the news clip here.
“Ms. Grifka’s greatness lies in her calm demeanor and belief that every student can learn at high levels,” said Ira Kleiman, principal at Westfield. “She has the patience and determination to plan for each student so they can be successful. To see the growth of her students during the course of the year is truly inspirational and why I do what I do.”
Keep up the amazing work, Ms. Grifka!