Nurse-turned-teacher combines 2 passions in Sumter career center

Educator helps students interested in health care


If you ask Tiffany Morris, a career is all about pursuing your passion. That's what she's done.

Growing up in Sumter, she was torn between becoming a teacher or a nurse.

Her mom, Tammie Morris, was a classroom teacher at Kingsbury Elementary School and had a passion for educating her students that made a big impression on her daughter.

Morris said many of her elementary school teachers were great and made learning fun.

But she also came to love nursing and personally saw how a nurse, as just one person, can positively affect the view of a patient when her grandmother was in and out of the hospital for a year after being diagnosed with cancer.

While a senior at Sumter High School in 2010-11, Morris took part in the district's teacher cadet program, which grooms students who want to pursue a career in the classroom before they go off to college. She enjoyed the experience of shadowing an elementary school teacher, doing lesson plans and even teaching a little.

But when she went off to college in Columbia at the University of South Carolina, Morris chose to pursue a nursing degree because she said it offered her more job security at the time. After graduation, she became a registered nurse here at Palmetto Health Tuomey.

Fast forward a couple years, and a job opened up in Sumter School District that she felt she couldn't pass up.

It was a teaching position at the district's career and technology center for high school students in health science pharmacology - the study of the uses and effects of medicines - for medical careers.

She jumped at the opportunity because it combined both of her passions - teaching and nursing.

She got the job in November 2016, and this school year is her first full year in the teaching post.

"I get to do both now, and I get to grow those minds and watch my students grow into health care fields," Morris said.

Juniors and seniors in the two-year program at Sumter Career and Technology Center can become pharmacy technicians basically right after high school or decide to go to college and pursue another medical career, such as a nurse, pharmacist or doctor, Morris said.

If she had to pick between teacher or nurse, Morris said she likes teaching a little more.

She said people often ask her why she made the switch to teaching.

"I get that question a lot honestly, and I get it from my students as well," Morris said. "I always tell everybody that I still get my medical aspect of it, but the pros and benefits are great. I just love teaching and watching students grow."

She said as a hospital nurse, your patients are only in for a week or two - at the most - and then they're out. But in her current role, she's with students for two years as high school juniors and seniors and helps nurture and guide them into a medical career.

"For me, it's not about money - because I get asked that too," Morris said. "It's about that I am happy doing this because I have a passion for it. I just love it."

She said as a teacher it's important to make sure the students know that you care about them - and not just how they perform in the classroom.

She said she asks regularly about her students' extracurricular activities and attends those events.

"I want them to know that I care," Morris said.

Career and technology center Principal Shirrie Miller said Morris is a perfect fit for a health care teaching position.

"I think her being able to combine her two loves, she's done a phenomenal job," Miller said. "She loves her students, and she loves her subject matter. She's just a phenomenal teacher. She's dedicated and ensures she does what she needs to do for her students' success."