Victoria (Tori) Morrill joined the LearningWorks team in 2014. She currently serves as the Academic Program Coordinator of Youth Building Alternatives (YBA). However, if you ask her or the young adults in the program, Tori is their “Vice Principal.” Tori graduated from UMaine Farmington, where she earned a degree in Elementary Education. Before joining the YBA staff, she worked for our AmeriCorps program and as a site coordinator at Kaler Elementary in South Portland. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher, but did not know that there were other paths beyond public schools. Being here has allowed me to become the best teacher and mentor I could possibly become.”
Tori has worked with hundreds of LearningWorks students over the years. One of her favorite teaching moments came from her time in our Afterschool program, LearningWorks Afterschool (LWAS). That program uses an engaging and hands on STEM based curriculum to help elementary school students who are falling behind academically. One afternoon, during a science lesson, her students were working on an engineering design process. Kids worked in small groups to collaboratively build race cars out of recycled materials, testing and improving their designs along the way. The process – which is challenging by design – led to a moment of frustration for one of her students. The student began to cry, and said she was afraid to lose the race. Tori helped the student recognize and name her feelings, provided reassurance, and gently asked her a series of questions designed to provoke independent, critical thinking. Rather than giving her student the answer, she guided her to find her own. Tori walked away to allow her student time to reflect on her project and continue refining her design. When race day finally came, this student’s car won the race! Moments like this are what put a smile on Tori’s face; she knew she was making a positive impact on these kids’ lives.
Tori told us that “LearningWorks has allowed me to support my community in ways that I never thought I would.” We are extremely grateful to have a person in our organization as dedicated, passionate, and as hardworking as Tori. Tori is currently working on building the curriculum for the upcoming group of young adults for our YBA program. We love the innovation Tori brings to LearningWorks, and cannot thank her enough for the work she has done for us and the kids over the last several years.
Photography by Molly Haley