Tara C. Morrow
Westlake Village, California
Company: Bethany Christian School
AT A GLANCE:
Seaver College Class of 1994
BA, Liberal Arts
Graduate School of Education and Psychology Class of 2000
How has your Pepperdine experience impacted your personal and professional success?
When I think about my current position as principal, I am amazed at how many experiences from my time at Pepperdine have impacted me and helped me both in my personal life and in carrying out the duties of my job. First and foremost, the spiritual formation that began to solidify, particularly as I lived oversees in Heidelberg, Germany and then through my involvement in Campus Ministry, has carried me throughout my life. Secondly, the teacher education department really prepared me for my career path. The professors were knowledgeable and experienced and my student teaching placements were challenging yet encouraging, and made me confident and ready to handle my first teaching position. Thirdly, I find it amusing that several of my jobs as a student worker at Pepperdine served as early training for duties I perform on a daily basis as a principal, i.e. giving tours (Admissions), planning events (Campus Life), speaking in chapel and leading worship (Campus Ministry), answering phones (Personnel), and counseling (Residential Life Office).
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career:
Projects and accomplishments are never the result of just one person's efforts. That being said, Bethany Christian School has worked hard during the past five years to make sure our curriculum and programs are relevant to 21st-century learning, while continuing to retain foundations of strong academics and Christian values that have made our school unique in the community. When I became principal, I had the opportunity to meet with each faculty and staff member individually. After tracking all the conversations, the "Spiritual Foundation" was something the staff valued most in the students. "Upgraded Technology" was by far the most important improvement that needed to be made so the school could remain relevant in the community. We then embarked on a journey to (quickly) outfit the building with wifi, add Smart Boards for the classrooms and the library, provide access to iPads for each class, begin a Robotics/Engineering program, provide training for teachers, and create a dynamic technology progression that ensures students are prepared for matriculation to middle school.
Who or what inspires you? Tell us why.
Women in leadership inspire me. There are several women in leadership whom I follow and they all come from different walks of life. They are authors, preachers, ministers, chaplains, executives, comedians, school leaders, professors, educators, presidents, moms, aunties, and grandmothers. They are women who lead with integrity, who love Jesus, who are intelligent, who are efficient and encouraging and loving and kind. They apologize when they make mistakes, and they ask for forgiveness. They put others before themselves. They don't back away from challenges. They have fun. They ask for help. They care about needs of others. They serve.
Are you where you thought you would be in life when you were in college?
I definitely knew I would be in education for a lifetime. I have always enjoyed working with children, and I developed a passion for teaching when I entered the teacher education program at Pepperdine. I had amazing mentors who taught me to use effective strategies in the classroom to guide and influence students. I learned that good teaching is a form of art. I loved watching the development of children's minds as they took in information and applied it and eventually "owned" it. In my third year of teaching, I was accepted to the GSEP's Educational Leadership Academy, which made me think about leadership in today's world and how we could motivate schools to continually improve and serve students.
In five words or fewer, what career or life advice would you give a new college graduate?
Effort plus passion equals impact.
What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?
The arts have always brought me tremendous joy. I began singing in church and in choirs at a young age and found myself involved in musical theatre starting in high school. I continued to produce, direct, and perform in different kinds of shows throughout my years at Pepperdine (coffee houses, Songfest, talent show, opera, choir) and well into my young adult life. After producing and performing for almost 12 years with the Santa Monica Civic Light Opera, I always had a desire to purchase a theater space and run theater programs and shows for children. I thought I could use my training in education and merge it with my performing experience to create a safe place for children to develop their talents in and appreciation of the performing arts. Who knows? It could still happen someday.
What three things could you not live without?
God, family, music.
How do you unplug?
There are several ways in which I "unplug." First, I love to road trip. Nothing says "vacation" to me like getting in the car on the open road. Of course, you have to get out of L.A. in order to drive on actual open roads, but they do exist. I used to tell my students they were missing out when they took airplanes everywhere. They, of course, thought that was crazy. Most adults think that is crazy. The open road is where I have time to think, create, listen, learn, sing, pray. For short-term unplugging I like to read, ride my bike or attend concerts and theater productions. Finally, I also enjoy the process of planning and leading worship. I enjoy the study time in God's word and the process of putting a theme together with scriptures and songs that can help a church goer find themselves in the presence of God. I also enjoy the prep time with the worship team, working with new music, and discovering what God wants us to learn during the process. I believe it draws me closer to Him.
Is there a particular quote, mantra, or philosophy that motivates you?
I tell our staff all the time that there are "no unsolvable problems" at school. When we work together, we can always find a solution. Some people just can't handle change. When a change comes their way, they panic and can't think of a way around it. To me, change is one of the only things that is consistent in life, therefore, we need to embrace it. Change is the natural progression of things. Sometimes change is exactly what God intends to make a situation that much better! There's no reason to fear it - embrace it!
What would your autobiography or memoir be called?
Tara C. Morrow: Life on the Playground.
What's one idea you think could change the world?
I think it could change the world if people looked at Christians and actually saw Jesus. So often our humanity gets in the way of our Christianity. But it's our flawed nature that reminds us why we need Jesus so much.
What's next for you professionally?
In the next few years, Bethany Christian School will be expanding to include grades seven and eight. We are dreaming about the possibilities of an integrated curriculum that includes both an STEM track and a Humanities track. This means that all curriculum in each track would be thematic, an approach to learning that research says is best for students to receive and retain information. Class sizes will remain relatively small, serving between 20-25 students per grade level. The new programs will also include the other threads that make students whole: spiritual, social, emotional, and physical. We are excited for the possibility of serving students in our community at the middle school level.