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July 11, 2020
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History, philosophy and law teacher Jeff Motter is retiring after 19 years at The Morgan School. Photo courtesy of Jeff Motter

History, philosophy and law teacher Jeff Motter is retiring after 19 years at The Morgan School. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Motter )

Jeff Motter Retiring After 19 Years

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Graduation day wasn’t just the last time at The Morgan School for the Class of 2020, it also was the last day for Jeff Motter, who has retired after 19 years at the school.

Jeff’s journey to Clinton is certainly an interesting one, and one that spans the globe.

“I caught the teaching bug while I was in the Navy, I actually found I really enjoyed it,” recalls Jeff.

Jeff eventually left the Navy and went to graduate school at Harvard. There he met his wife, who was from Clinton.

After spending nine years teaching at a boarding school in New York, the couple decided to move toward the shoreline area. At the time, Jeff was also teaching summer school to students in England, and says “it was a short fuse that summer to find a job.” Luckily, one opened up at The Morgan School while he was overseas.

Jeff taught at The Morgan School from fall 2001 until now. During his time at the school Jeff taught U.S. history, a law elective, honors philosophy, and A.P. European History.

“I always loved history growing up, and I came to philosophy later, but I also loved it,” says Jeff. “I always tried to keep my classrooms a combination of rigor and fun.”

Jeff has several examples of that combination in action.

“For years I took the philosophy class to Malone’s Coffee Shop in the morning for discussions on Plato’s Republic once a week. I got a lot of feedback from alum and how much they missed that,” says Jeff.

For his European history class, the students were encouraged to adopt an alter ego of someone about whom they’d learned.

Another example of rigor and fun is encouraging the students to do what he terms “quiz art.” The students were encouraged after a quiz to turn their paper over and draw a picture that related to the quiz subject.

“They actually drew really good political cartoons a lot,” says Jeff.

Jeff knew he was gong to retire, but says it was still a hard decision.

“It’s the daily interaction with students that’s what I’ll miss the most. I already miss my colleagues—that’s the hardest part,” Jeff says.

Jeff says there’s no grand retirement plans on the horizon just yet. He wants to attend more concerts at Yale and travel to the west coast to see his family.

Prior to his teaching career, Jeff has a long career in the Navy. Jeff enlisted from 1971 to 1975, then went to college to become an officer, which he did in the 1980s. He was an active in the Navy reserves as a drill instructor from 1990 to 2007.

Jeff’s interest in the Navy “started as a little kid admiring John F. Kennedy. That planted the original seed,” he says. “I had other family in the military, too.”

John enjoyed the interesting work and the travel the Navy offered, particularly his time spent stationed on the northwest coast of Australia.

During his time in Clinton, Jeff was able to see The Morgan School change, literally. The town built a new Morgan School that opened in fall 2016, and where Jeff spent his last four years in Clinton’s schools.

“The physical transformation was a wonderful change for everyone—a really nice space for learning,” Jeff says.

It was during his time at the school that Jeff was able to see just how much the school meant to the community.

“I loved being a part of The Morgan School and a part of the Clinton community. I like how the community is really engaged in the high school,” Jeff says.

That support included Clinton Police Department personnel visits to his law class during discussions on criminal law, and support from local businesses who contributed extra space or T-shirts to his class.

Jeff originally grew up in California and now resides on the Connecticut shoreline where he enjoys spending time with his family including his wife Lisa and his five adult children Graham, Lee, John, Jane, and Phillip. Other hobbies include riding his motorcycle, reading, watching hockey, and theater and film.

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