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July 20, 2019  |  

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The Morgan School history teacher Emily Russell has taken on integral roles with the school’s Model United Nations and debate teams, which she sees as great opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

The Morgan School history teacher Emily Russell has taken on integral roles with the school’s Model United Nations and debate teams, which she sees as great opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Emily Russell: Helping Students State Their Case

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In January, the 11 students who make up the Model United Nations (UN) team at The Morgan School took part in the annual Model UN conference held at Yale. The prestigious event draws thousands of high school students from around the world. At the helm of The Morgan School delegation was the group’s faculty advisor, Emily Russell.

Emily has been the faculty advisor since the club’s inception two years ago.

“Two students came to me and said they were interested and asked me to be an advisor,” Emily explains. “We’ve been growing a little every year. The first year we only had four students, but they had a great time. The next year we had 10 and this year 11.”

Emily says that the students prepare by being sorted into different countries and committees. The students then research and study real issues that pertain to the country to which they have been assigned.

Emily, who was a Model UN team member when she was in high school, credits the students on the team with the group’s success, and says her role is simply to provide guidance with operational facets like organizing field trips.

Besides the Yale conference, the club also participated in the Charger Model UN conference in December 2018 hosted by the University of New Haven. Emily proudly notes that at that conference, the club as a whole was one of three to be recognized with the Outstanding Delegation award, and several members of the team won individual awards as well.

In addition to her role with the model UN team, Emily is also an advisor to the school’s mock trial team, which competes every December in a competition with other schools. The team is assigned a case and presented with facts about it. The students then look at all facets from the prosecution side, the defense side, and the witnesses.

At the competition, the team will take turns competing as the prosecution team against another school’s defense team and vice versa.

“We learn the cases really well, so we meet weekly. It’s a lot of work,” says Emily.

Emily has worked with this team for the last four years. Initially, Emily wanted to start a debate club at the school, but she says the club didn’t take off. Fortuitously, around the same time the previous mock trial team advisor was stepping down and asked Emily if she would want to take over the team.

“It’s just a great experience for the students,” says Emily.

Emily says that the mock trial and model UN teams share some aspects that she hopes can help the kids in their everyday lives. Emily credits the real-world issues discussed in both clubs as giving the students what she terms an “authentic setting.” Both clubs also encourage students to partake in critical thinking, research, and studying.

“It’s a great way to develop skills they hopefully could use,” says Emily.

Emily has been teaching U.S. and world history at The Morgan School since spring 2014. Emily says she was drawn to history as a field to in while she was a student at Connecticut College.

“I found it a key to understanding why things are the way they are,” she says.

At Connecticut College, Emily was able to visit some schools in the area where she says she found she enjoyed being in the classroom. Emily credits past teachers she had with inspiring her in part to want to peruse teaching as a career.

“I just saw it as a job where you could have an impact,” says Emily.

When she’s not teaching, Emily says she likes to keep active and go on hikes with her dog. Emily originally grew up in West Hartford, but moved to Clinton in summer 2017. Emily says moving to Clinton was partly to be close to The Morgan School, and partly because she likes the town.

“Through teaching here, I guess I became a part of the community and I felt a connection,” says Emily. “Getting to interact with the students everyday is my favorite part.”

To nominate a Person of the Week, contact Eric O’Connell at e.oconnell@zip06.com.

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