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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

Students of the Month

By Colin Anderson

Alex Morgan, Junior

Gig Harbor High School

Photo by Jackie Morgan

While teachers will often tell you they learn a lot from their students, it’s less common that what they are learning comes from a lesson plan a student has drawn up. This is the case for Gig Harbor High School junior Alex Morgan and physics teacher Eric Wolgemuth. Alex was the only student at the high school interested in taking a calculus-based physics class. Despite no interest from other students, Mr. Wolgemuth didn’t want to see the opportunity pass by and helped set up a unique independent study program for Alex.

“Once every three weeks, we get together on a Zoom call before school and talk physics. Afterwards, I prepare a lesson about a relevant concept of his choice and teach him about it. It is a rather untraditional learning environment fit for the most untraditional year of learning,” Alex explained.

The independent study is just one of many upper-level courses that Alex challenges himself with. He’s also taking Spanish at the college level and Advanced Placement courses in calculus, physics, history and composition. While these courses are sure to prepare Alex for a career in engineering and mathematics, his greatest passion lies in an entirely different setting.

“My absolute dream is to be a composer. For about four years, I have been composing, mainly for larger ensembles such as concert band. For me, composing is a release of emotions that challenges me with uniquely complex problems.”

Alex plays a multitude of instruments including, but not limited to, French horn, piano and trombone. He participates in both the school’s top concert and jazz bands. He enjoys writing compositions, and band director Eric Swanson even let him pass out his work to his fellow musicians so he could hear it done by the entire ensemble.

“Mr. Swanson pushed the bounds of my composing abilities and has spent time with me after school revising my musical compositions,” Alex said. “Although these excellent educators are rather different, they both have gone well beyond what is required of them. They have made an impact on my life so great that it easily may have changed my course in life, and for that I am forever grateful.”

Outside of school Alex recently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout after 10 years in scouting. He plans on attending a four-year school after graduation and double majoring in music and physics with his eyes set on eventually pursuing a graduate degree.

Until then, Alex, like his peers, is hoping for a chance to see his friends and teachers in person again and trying to make the most out of a tough situation. “I typically play instruments between Zoom calls throughout the day; music is a great break for me and never fails to save a bad day.”

Katie Giesy, Senior

Peninsula High School

Photo by Heidi Stephens, Sunrise Photography

One of the many challenges of high school students learning remotely is the amount of time spent staring at screens. Too much screen time can cause back and neck issues, headaches and trouble sleeping, and for those who’ve suffered a brain injury like Peninsula High School senior Katie Giesy, those effects are multiplied.

“Since my brain injury, I am more prone to migraines, so the added screen time causes my headaches to be more frequent. To help with this issue, I am using blue light glasses and trying to use textbooks as much as possible as opposed to online books,” Katie explained.

While not ideal, Katie keeps her spirit up by taking a challenging course load, helping out in her community and competing in dance. Katie is vice president of the National Honor Society and has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. She’s also lettered twice in community service thanks to her efforts outside the classroom to bolster the greater Gig Harbor area.

Having suffered a brain injury, Katie knows just how much such an injury can affect someone. She hopes one day to continue studying those affects so she can be of help to others who have experienced trauma. “I am currently looking into WSU in hopes to major in either neuroscience or psychology and would love to have my career be dedicated toward brain rehabilitation and psychology.”

Katie’s favorite subjects in school are math and science. They interest her the most because they both continue to build, because no matter how many classes you take there is always so much more you can learn.

She is also thankful for the many teachers who’ve helped shape her and prep her for life after high school. “I am grateful to have had several teachers who have made an impact in my life, especially Mr. Epstein, Mr. Pratz and Mr. Newton. These teachers have helped me in so many ways, especially in my return from my injury. They all made extra effort to help me academically and support me,” said Katie. “Sometimes brain injury symptoms are not visible from the outside, but these teachers always supported me on my recovery path. They were always incredibly kind, patient and understanding of my needs, and would always take the extra time to help me.”

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