Business Administration instructor witnesses generations turning to education
As a 16-year veteran instructor at the Visalia campus, David Morra has had the rare chance to see a couple of generations of families embrace higher education.
“Most of our students are first-time college students because their families have never been in higher education,” says Morra. He knows that many students are blazing a new path that siblings, cousins, parents and even their own future children might seriously consider – if they are successful.
“If they don’t succeed, chances are their families and their children won’t succeed,” he says. “Our students must set the example for generations to come.”
David is there to make certain that students do succeed, both for themselves and for many that are watching.
David teaches the Business Administration and Human Resource Administration programs, evenings, full-time. He also puts a lot into his voluntary position as ENACTUS Club Advisor, where he gives student members every opportunity to gain work experience through community projects, while they network with potential employers.
“Lots of our students are young so don’t have work experience,” says David. “This is a powerful tool for them to get hands-on skills, maybe be a Team Leader, and connect with the community and business leaders.”
David is a teacher in its most helpful and supportive definition. “In a classroom full of students, I have to be able to see each student as an individual, with different backgrounds, learning styles, wants and needs,” he says. “If I can’t make that connection, they may not be able to get all the information from the class that they need. I want them integrated and connected to the class.”
David’s desire to teach was an evolution. He and his wife Melody have three children, who occasionally experienced some learning difficulties in school. The patience teachers demonstrated made an impression and opened the door to a new career interest for David.
“I saw the impact of somebody taking the time and working with them; it was invaluable to their succeeding,” says David. He thought he might be able to do that for others.
David was working as Operations Supervisor at Staples when the (then) Visalia campus Business Administration Program Director came in to the store and needed some assistance. “She liked the way I answered questions and explained things, and thought I’d be a good fit for the college,” says David. That was almost 17 years ago.
David has lots of wonderful stories about the success of those students he has had the privilege to teach. One such graduate, Elisia Sanchez, is now the Visalia campus Student Resource Coordinator.
“Mr. Morra was my instructor when I went to school here, and he taught me so much about the business world,” says Elisia. “He is always quick to jump in with whatever campus functions we are hosting. I could not plan campus events without Mr. Morra and the ENACTUS club’s help.”
David knows how to balance the rigors of the business programs with a little personal warmth. “I’m kind of a quirky Star Trek fan and do speak Klingon occasionally,” he laughs. He likely infuses a little Spock wisdom into his classroom style. Whatever he does, it reaches an appreciative audience.
Mr. Morra recalls how one very quiet and low-key student wanted to join the club and participate in one of the club’s competitions. “She asked me if she would have to speak, and I said, ‘Of course.'” “She had a horrified look. She found her voice, utilized it and now works at the EECU (Educational Employees Credit Union) and comes to our campus to do financial planning training with our employees. She never saw that career for herself!”
David has nominated many students who have won the Founder’s Award, which is presented at graduation. One year Leah, in the Human Resource Administration program, won the award and David watched as her brother, Travis, who graduated from SJVC’s Computer Support Tech program earlier, made the presentation. “It was a touching moment to see them on the stage,” says David. Travis now works at SJVC and Leah work as a Human Resources Manager.
David is an involved and vigilant teacher, always looking for that student that needs just a little more. He often tells struggling students, “This is short-term pain for long-term gain.”
“You’ll see a student start off very quiet or struggling a little bit,” he says. “But suddenly, they find their way and take off. Then, they graduate and come back to tell you about the great job they’ve gotten. I’ve seen it happen so many times, but wow, it’s just a great thing and still exciting.”
The best teachers never tire of that thrill.
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