Usually, teachers selected for the Ruth Patrick Science Award every year are known for their efforts to bring a love of science and knowledge to their students.

Yet Gabrielle Morgan is doing just that and doing it well as the career specialist at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School, also known as LBC.

In the past year, she has introduced many children to the Future City program – a contest that encourages middle-schoolers to build model cities with a different theme each year. Morgan took five teams to a regional event in January this year, held at USC Aiken.

At a School Board meeting last week, Morgan was surprised when Dr. Gary Senn, the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center director, presented her with a plaque. Ruth Patrick was a pioneer environmental scientist, and the center is named after her.

“I knew I had been nominated for the award, but I had forgotten all about it,” Morgan said. “I really am honored. I've worked with Dr. Senn, and he's really amazing.”

Future City provides middle school kids the chance to not only create city models, but write essays and choose three team members to make formal presentations to judges and answer their questions.

In recent years, two Aiken County middle school teams have won the regional event to go on to the nationals in Washington, D.C.

In her role as a career specialist, Morgan helps students learn about professions with which they are not familiar, as well as academic skills and the soft skills that include critical thinking. Future City is a fun and positive way to introduce that focus, she said.

Last year, the theme centered on storm-water runoff well into the future and how to utilize that water. The students used recyclable materials for their model cities and developed strategies to ensure their processes would work.

Morgan earned a degree from interdisciplinary studies from USCA in 2004. She has worked previously at Silver Bluff High School and Leavelle McCampbell Middle School.

In recent years, Morgan was diagnosed with cancer and had to give up her role as a volleyball coach and other activities. She currently gets tested every three months.

LBC Principal Brenda DeLoache had asked Morgan in advance last week to attend the School Board meeting, along with other faculty members, for a presentation about career and technology education – or so she was told.

When her name was called out, Morgan shot a mock-fierce look at DeLoache. But she'll never trade that moment, not with all the teachers there for the occasion.

“They are my family,” Morgan said. “They have helped me through the cancer, taking care of me at home. They're awesome, and Mrs. Deloache is a great principal. She works with you and supports you.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001.

He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.