Benterah C. Morton, Ph.D.
A.S., Teacher Education, Dekalb College, 1998
B.S., Secondary Science Education, University of West Georgia, 2001
M.Ed., Administration and Supervision, University of West Georgia, 2003
Ed.S., Educational Leadership, Louisiana State University, 2015
Ph.D., Curriculum and Instruction, Louisiana State University, 2015
Why I Teach
My teaching philosophy is synonymous with my leadership philosophy. As a teacher, I am an instructional leader who intentionally teaches/leads through service and integrity all while keeping the main thing, student achievement and success, in focus. I am a protagonist for students who intentionally strives to meet the diverse needs of students. My practice is rooted in the active engagement of best practices recognizing that best practice is not synonymous with the equal distribution of resources. By contrast, best practice is more closely related to the facilitation of equity in opportunities for all students to experience success continually. Equity of opportunity is enacted by the teacher/leader through collaboration with others to discern the necessities of the group and provide guidance and support in such a way that those necessities are met or exceeded. In short, teaching/leading is a function of service to the student that provides above all, the space and opportunity to learn.
How I Teach
Teaching in three distinct leadership programs requires that I employ a diverse array of teaching strategies and methodologies. The most foundational of these is Team-Based Learning (TBL). Building on the TBL philosophy, all my courses are centered on collaboration. Collaboration in this context is supported by students completing assigned readings and documenting their thinking and unanswered questions before each course meetings. In this way each session is fueled with content-specific data-informed discourse.
Ongoing discourse is an integral aspect of preparing leaders to embody the dispositions necessary to engage with their constituents (e.g., students, teachers, parents, community, etc.) in educational excellence. In my courses, discourse in all of its forms (e.g., written, spoken, and debate) is driven by the students. My role is to facilitate our engagements by presenting content that is rooted in Educational Leadership standards and best practices and simultaneously challenge leaders to reflect on how applications of the standards impact their students’ academic outcomes. In this role, I supplement the course texts with scholarly articles that introduce diverse ways of examining how our beliefs and actions influence the decisions we make to support student learning. Further, I design lessons and course meetings so that students have opportunities to apply what they have read and discussed in an environment that encourages risk taking and rewards learning from previous experiences.
When I joined the Department of Leadership and Teacher Education in August 2016, my research sought to examine the roles of instruction leaders in supporting special programs in K-12 schools. My focus was to explore how leaders supported the development of students identified as learners of English. After a year of struggling to further this research agenda, I reflected on the reasons I provided for becoming a researcher. I realized that I was engaging in a research identity crisis. Since that time, I have worked to refine the focus of my research to more closely align with who I am as an educator and researcher: a protagonist for students who intentionally strives to meet the diverse needs of students. Through this reflective journey I have established a pattern of scholarship that centers on the roles of K-12 leaders in meeting the needs of diverse populations. I investigate these roles through examinations of mentoring practices and programs, leadership preparation and training, and the implementation of curriculum and instruction.
In line with my research focus, each of my scholarly products fits into one of three categories (i.e., mentoring, leadership preparation, or curriculum and instruction) all pointing toward meeting the needs of diverse populations. I am intentional in the choice not to further define diverse populations, doing so imposes limits on the aspects of human diversity represented in schools. To date, I have worked to curate a publication record that broadens society’s understanding of the ways K-12 leaders go about meeting the needs of diverse populations. It is important to note here that I have also engaged in scholarly activities that explore the roles of higher education leaders in meeting the needs of diverse populations. These activities (see Morton et al., 2020; Morton & Delmas, (under review)) are opportunities to explore phenomena occurring in higher education leadership as an avenue for exploring similar phenomena in K-12 leadership. Nevertheless, the areas of examination stated (mentoring, leadership preparation, and curriculum and instruction) work in concert with my teaching and recently my areas of service. More specifically, in my primary teaching and service role, leadership preparation, I experience mentoring as one of the bridges that connect leaders to exemplars of the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to implement curriculum and instruction in educational excellence. These areas also work in concert with one another as each informs the ways we prepare future leaders and develop practicing leaders to meet the needs of their constituents.
At the University of South Alabama, I have participated on numerous committees for professional service to the Department of Leadership and Teacher Education, College of Education and Professional Studies, and the University of South Alabama. In those roles I served on diversity committees, program accreditation and evaluation committees (Continuous Improvement in Educator Preparation (CIEP), and Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)), faculty and administrative search committees, Faculty Council, and countless other committees (see CV). For each of these appointments, I have applied my participation to affirming the core values and institutional priorities around which the University’s strategic plan is organized.
Service to Educational Leadership
Professional service as a member of the Educational Leadership (EDL) program faculty includes a large portion of program-specific service activities that are tied directly to the life, breath, and sustainability of the program itself. These activities include participation on specialist and dissertation committees; building and maintaining relationships with senior level K-12 leaders across the University’s service area; facilitating residency placements; recruiting, interviewing, admitting, and advising students; and ongoing programmatic updates, reviews, and evaluations. Many of these program specific service roles directly promote three out of five of the University’s institutional priorities (Student Success and Access, University-Community Engagement, & Enhancement of Research and Graduate Education), and simultaneously engage the surrounding community. I engage these roles as a protagonist for students who intentionally strives to meet the diverse needs of students.
University-Community Engagement. It is within the activities specifically engaging with the surrounding community that I have been able to identify service opportunities that are directly related to my research interests (the role of K-12 leaders in meeting the needs of diverse populations) specifically related to leadership preparation. While some of these service activities stem from aspects of my teaching (e.g., Praxis 5412 Bootcamp; facilitation of residency placements, mentoring students in the application phase and after receiving ALSDE sponsored Principal Candidacy Semester Residency awards), others are directly related to my service on the SARIC Governing Board as the Higher Education Representative. Through the relationship with SARIC, I have been able to design and facilitate leadership courses for practicing K-12 leaders from across our service area.
I believe that teaching and leading are functions of service to students. Through service I have been able to cultivate an environment that values students and keeps their achievement at the center of my focus. This approach has allowed me to maximize service opportunities to enhance my teaching and enrich my scholarship.
I am a graduate of Louisiana State University, with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and a Certificate of Education Specialist in Educational Leadership. Teaching courses at USA allows me to utilize current literature and pull from eight years of experience as a school administrator: 3.5 years as assistant principal and 4.5 years as a campus principal. As a campus level administrator and instructional leader, I worked within the organization to promote democracy in education by developing and leading a campus improvement team consisting of parents, teachers, and community members that evaluated campus policy, instructional programming, and campus culture. Our primary goal was to provide equity in opportunities for all of our students to experience success continually. Working closely with parents and teacher leaders I was able to identify innovative ways to educate parents and teachers on strategies for working with children as an extension to daily instruction. In addition, as a collaborative instructional leader I worked with campus and district administrative teams and faculty to develop, promote, implement, and maintain visibility of our Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese language immersion programs.
As an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the LTE department at the University of South Alabama I bring a wealth of knowledge and a creative perspective including experience working to establish and maintain positive partnerships between universities and K-12 schools and a general understanding of their respective accreditation processes. Developing and teaching courses in educational leadership align with my desire to prepare instructional leaders to lead through service and integrity all while keeping the main thing, student achievement and success, in focus. Additionally, my years of experience as a campus principal working with diverse student populations prepares me to teach best practices in respect to educational law, campus budgeting, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and leadership and organizational change all reinforced through sound educational philosophy. I work with the students to identify characteristics of instructional leaders and contrast those with characteristics of administrators in an effort to show both perspectives and prepare them to be well-rounded educational leaders that are actively engaged in best practices. Furthermore, I call upon my experiences organizing and facilitating study abroad programs to Concepción, Chile to explore the necessities of developing fluid understandings of the diversity of humanity.
EDL 501 - Theories of Instructional Leadership
EDL 502 - Data-Driven Instructional Leadership
EDL 503 - Supervision and Professional Development
EDL 598 - Residency
EDL 607 - Leading Schools in a Multicultural Society