Hall-Dale High School music teachers Deb Large and David Morris in the school’s music room Wednesday in Farmingdale. Morris was Large’s student and graduated in 2015, before getting his music education degree from Ithaca College and returning to teach with her. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — At the end of every school year, Deb Large writes a poem for the seniors at Hall-Dale High School and recites it with her students.

“You spend more time at my desk than I do, some day you will take my job,” David Morris’s part of the poem said.

But little did Morris know, the line he recited from the poem would soon become his reality.

This past September, Morris became the newest Hall-Dale High School music teacher — taking the place of his favorite teacher.

“He was worried about filling my shoes,” Large said. “But I told him, ‘I always go barefoot.'”

Ever since she had Morris as a student. Large said, she knew he would one day become a music teacher. Through high school, she said, he was her “right arm.”

After attending Hall-Dale High School, Morris graduated from Ithaca College in New York in 2019 and focused on vocal performance. The community of Hallowell helped raise $13,000 for Morris to be able to go to school there, all from the help of Large.

Morris’s first teaching job after college was at Hall-Dale Middle School, in tandem with high school teacher Large who has been there for 22 years.

“When the middle school position opened up (last year), I was careful, I didn’t want him to feel like he had to come back (to Hallowell),” Large said. “I told him, ‘Don’t feel like you have to come back,’ but the job was open and he found a home here.”

Hall-Dale High School music teachers Deb Large and David Morris in the school’s music room Wednesday in Farmingdale. Morris was Large’s student and graduated in 2015, before getting his music education degree from Ithaca College and returning to teach with her. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Because of recent changes in school structure from the coronavirus pandemic, Large felt that this year made sense for her to retire and felt confident knowing that Morris could take her place. Hall-Dale Middle and High School is part of Regional School Unit 2, which is participating in hybrid learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Large is not fully retired just yet, as she is teaching virtually until the middle school music teacher can start.

But Morris has started his job at the high school level, and is using his experience from helping Large from back when he was in high school.

“I knew the job from my time helping her when I was in high school,” Morris said. “Deb has been supportive in helping me in any way that I’ve needed.

“We both want kids to have an experience that is meaningful and where they are going to grow,” he added. “It’s not about me — the music is about them.”

Morris said that he has had to adapt to teaching a little differently than Large did in the past, because of the new teaching restrictions with the coronavirus.

Moving music rehearsal outside was one of the first steps. Together, he and Large painted circles in the parking lot, each bubble being 14-feet away from one another, as place markers for students to stand while playing their instruments or singing.

Students gather at 6:45 a.m. for choirs, and still have smiles on their faces, Morris said. They sometimes bring flashlights and wear multiple layers to adjust to the temperature.

“They persevere and keep going,” Morris said.

As for Large’s next steps, she is writing a grant with hopes of opening an ice cream shop sometime next year that employs teenagers and people with disabilities.

“I don’t see this as an end for me, but that it’s time to take myself somewhere else,” Large said. “Knowing David has this part covered can give me the opportunity to do this.”

She of course, will never be too far from Morris.

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