Robbinsdale Area Schools

Armstrong’s Morgan Smith reflects on role of teachers on her journey to Notre Dame

Armstrong’s Morgan Smith reflects on role of teachers on her journey to Notre Dame

The gravity of graduating high school isn’t lost on Armstrong High School (AHS) senior Morgan Smith, and she says it’s the dedication and encouragement of her teachers that helped her navigate the challenges of high school.

"I am so lucky to have grown up with teachers that provided examples of who I want to become someday," Morgan said.

She emphasized the influence of teachers on her educational journey, and specifically pointed to Plymouth Middle School Spanish teacher Dan Dunagan, as well as AHS music teacher Kevin Martin and social studies teacher Jeni Claire as having a large impact on her. 

Dunagan recalled thinking Morgan would be a difference-maker. “She combined a natural curiosity, a high-level work ethic, and a great sense of humor that I always love seeing in middle schoolers,” he said.

Claire agreed, and said she expects her to do very well in her post-high school endeavors.

“Morgan is curious and dedicated, but never seems driven simply by the grade on her report card,” Claire said. “She has wit but remains kind – a very appealing combination, and she always has a ready smile and would often say ‘thank you’ as she left the classroom.”

Morgan has a simple message to all of the teachers that have been part of her educational journey: "I’m sorry for always falling asleep in class. I should have gotten more sleep, but I was too busy getting to where I am now,” she said.

And where she is now is preparing for a major transition – later this summer, she’ll begin classes at one of the country’s most esteemed post secondary institutions: the University of Notre Dame. 

"I chose to attend Notre Dame because it makes me feel excited about my future," she said.

Although she focused mostly on English and social sciences as a high school student, Morgan said the varied curriculum at AHS allowed her to explore and choose a different path for when she begins studies at Notre Dame: environmental engineering.

“I appreciated the variety of classes you can take each year and the teachers that encouraged me,” she said. 

She also credits her counselor, Jamie Dukowitz, for offering steadfast support and guidance throughout the college application process. "(He) listened to me blab for hours about my college worries," Morgan said.

School staff aren’t the only people in her life that offered support and guidance. Morgan credits her friends, many of whom she has known since elementary school, for providing a crucial support system. 

"Nobody has provided me with more unconditional love and support than my friends," she said. "I met most of them in the first few years of elementary school, and they still have not left my side."

Beyond the classroom, Morgan's involvement in extracurricular activities also shaped her high school experience. She pointed to finding growth and fulfillment in leadership and volunteer roles offered at AHS, as well as being on the school’s swimming and diving team – something her mom strongly encouraged.

"I'm infinitely grateful for the opportunities Armstrong has provided for me,” Morgan said.

Her swimming coach said Morgan was a leader and a hard worker, and a source of aid for the team.

“Morgan has always worked very hard, and she is a kind hearted person who was always there as a ‘mother hen’ to the girls,” said Marina Rydbom, who was co-head coach of the AHS girls swimming and dive team this past season. “She really embodies Falcon Pride and was an exceptional representation of the culture we wanted to create on the team.”

As Morgan steps into the next phase of her life as a freshman at Notre Dame, her story is an example of the impact that dedicated educators and a supportive school community can have on a student's life.