When she applied to college, Erin Whitley of Chuckatuck knew that she wanted to teach and be deeply involved in her community.
As the 2014 Lewis F. Morris Scholar, she selected Longwood University to earn a Liberal Studies degree with a concentration in Elementary Education. The scholarship honored the memory of another community-minded educator Lewis F. Morris, a long-time teacher, coach, and principal at Chuckatuck High School. Her selection for the award was based in part on her community service with her church youth group, at the soup kitchen, and with the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department where her dad was president. She remembered herself as shy in high school, involved but quiet. Her sorority in college gave her the leadership skills and confidence to pursue her teaching practicum.
Whitley thrived in the classroom from her first day. Her enthusiasm, outgoing nature, and charisma translated into student success immediately. Her fifth-grade students passed the Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) for social studies and science at a remarkable 98 and 89 percent respectively. “I knew right away her repertoire suited older students,” said Susan Melbye, principal of Nottoway Elementary School in Southampton County, where Whitley just finished her second year of teaching.
Whitley’s community minded approach to teaching underscored her own life long habits of service and community. She co-sponsored a National Junior Beta Club at Nottoway and introduced students to community service through cleaning the school garden, sending cards to juvenile cancer patients, and collecting Pennies for Patients. She collaborated with other teachers for a book drive that collected over 1,000 books from local churches and community members to stock a free library at the school. The Lewis F. Morris Scholarship recognized Whitley’s community service and encouraged her to pass the practice on to her students.