Perfect for the role: Prospect High School acting teacher aims to build students’ confidence

There is no such thing as too much drama in Jeremy Morton’s life.

Morton, or JMo as he is known, plays many roles at Prospect High School and in Northwest Suburban High School District 214. He is the acting and speech teacher at Prospect, where he’s also been the school’s fine arts coordinator since 2006. For the district, which includes Prospect and five other high schools, he’s served as fine arts coordinator since 2011.

He deftly handles his multiple roles with a touch of humor, as shown by a motto displayed in his office at Prospect: “I’m kind of a big deal.”

What’s the story behind that? He explains that when he was named fine arts coordinator, he immediately took advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free deal at Men’s Wearhouse to purchase four suits to wear during meetings. When he arrived home, he told his wife, Valerie, “I have four suits. I’m kind of a big deal.”

During his 23-year career with District 214, Morton has taught everything from basic English and college composition to film studies. Now, he mainly teaches acting and college speech, the latter offered at Prospect through Eastern Illinois University.

After school, he helps the speech team and is involved with theater productions and the district’s summer musical.

“I want students to learn to not only appreciate the art form, but also to experience a newfound self-confidence,” he said of his acting classes. “I want them to learn that we use so many acting skills in our daily lives, so if they never act on stage, they can at least become the best person they can be.”

For students who want to be involved in the arts but not on stage, he’s formed a club called Theater Angels.

“Even if they are not on the stage, they can really have a major role in making a show incredibly successful,” Morton said. “In my productions, I want everyone to continue to grow. But I also want them to do so as part of the team. I want them to approach this show and life with positivity and enthusiasm. This will only make the world a better place.”

Prospect senior Nora Hubert describes Morton as a mentor. The 18-year-old from Mount Prospect said Morton created an internship for her through which she was able to create a curriculum and teach acting class during the second semester.

  Prospect High School acting and speech teacher Jeremy Morton talks with junior Boyan Konstantinov as students learn about camera techniques and placement. Joe Lewnard/

“I had the opportunity to research theory and curriculum practices and then try them out with my classmates,” she said.

Morton has seen District 214 students go on to theater success. Recently, he brought 112 students from the district to New York, where they saw John Hersey High School graduate Jason Schmidt perform. Morton directed Schmidt in a summer musical a few years ago.

  Prospect High School acting and speech teacher Jeremy Morton works with junior Graham Ellis during a recent class at the Mount Prospect school. Joe Lewnard/

Despite success stories like Schmidt, Morton said his goal is not to convert students into theater enthusiasts.

“I just need them to feel confident and special,” he said.

Curriculum vitae: Jeremy Morton

Name: Jeremy Morton

School: Prospect High School

Occupation: Theater and college speech teacher, Prospect High School fine arts coordinator, District 214 fine arts coordinator, theater and musical director, and assistant speech team coach.

Education: Deerfield High School; bachelor's degree in speech communication, English and education from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; master of arts in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University

Previous work experience: Entire teaching career has been at Prospect High School and District 214. Artistic director of the White Horse theater Company. Theater camp director at the Apple Tree Theater.

Tips from Top Teacher Jeremy Morton

• Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm.

• The most important thing is the way we treat each other.

• Be confident. Be curious. Be courageous. And be yourself!

• There is always enough time in the day and year to get to know your students. Don’t just do one ice breaker at the beginning of the year! Make the students feel a part of the group and let all students have a voice by slowly melting that ice all year!

• Always find ways or time to allow everyone to share stories. Really listen to them.

• Celebrate your students. Celebrate your colleagues. And don’t be afraid to celebrate yourself!

• Save the drama for the stage!

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