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Ruben Morris, Alabama Aviation HS Founder, on His Plans to Make Students Soar

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Ruben Morris, Founder and Superintendent, Alabama Aviation & Aerospace High School. (Mark Almond, For The Birmingham Times)
The Birmingham Times

Ruben Morris, founder and superintendent of Alabama Aerospace & Aviation High School in Bessemer, is ready for his students to take off. Literally.

School opens August 22.

“We’re bringing a whole new kind of educational opportunity to students: the chance to get an outstanding high school education combined with industry-aligned, career-focused training and experience,” he said on the school’s website. “In addition to hands-on, experiential instruction, we will provide clearly defined pathways for our diverse student body to enter aviation and aerospace careers.”

Administrators say they have a different model of instruction. “We don’t teach kids how to take tests, we teach them how to solve problems. We don’t ask them to memorize, we ask them to investigate. We don’t require them to learn, we require them to think.”

Morris is a Birmingham native born to a single-parent home of a first-grade teacher and graduated from Shades Valley High School in suburban Birmingham. Upon graduating from Morehouse College in 2004 where he studied history, he joined Teach For America (TFA), where he taught 5th and 6th grade in Houston, TX, and Atlanta, GA.

After a brief break from the classroom to work in the family real estate development business, Morris returned to the education reform world as the Director of District Strategy for TFA Atlanta. After helping to significantly grow the footprint of TFA in Atlanta, he moved to Denver, CO, to pursue a Master’s in Social Change.

While completing his Master’s, Morris returned to the classroom as a 7th grade reading and history teacher at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy on Denver’s southwest side. During his time at KIPP, he helped to post the highest combined 7th and 8th grade reading growth in Denver Public Schools and the fourth highest in the state of Colorado in his first year.

As a teacher, Morris loves having “the opportunity to change lives.”

After Ruben’s time at KIPP, he moved into school leadership in what was at the time Denver Public School’s only Innovation School Network, the Denver Summit Schools Network. His Innovation School experience began at a turnaround school, Collegiate Prep Academy (CPA).

While serving at CPA, he was also awarded a school leadership fellowship with Get Smart Schools (now Catapult Leadership) established to train dynamic leaders on how to design and lead charter schools. He later completed a principal residency within Denver Public Schools at the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello as the lead administrator for the high school. The very next year he went on to be the school’s first middle school principal.

Morris later transitioned to Colorado’s only competency-based school district, where he served as a high school administrator at Westminster High School. Upon returning to Birmingham in 2016, he served as the Interim Education Director for the Woodlawn Innovation Network in Birmingham City Schools.

He later served as the Executive Director of the New Rising Star Community Support Corporation, where he was instrumental in the planning of Birmingham’s first public charter school. He also was the interim principal of the Middle and High School at Cornerstone Schools of Alabama.

Most recently, he was principal and program director of Build for Urban Prosperity (Build UP) Ensley, the nation’s first and only private school workforce development program that turns inner city students into homeowners.

At AAHS, administrators encourage students to be intellectually curious, inquisitive and adventurous.

 “We also inspire them — through a diverse, respectful and inclusive environment — to embrace different perspectives, cultures and approaches to problem solving . . . The universe is out there waiting for our kids to explore. We give them the skills to do it, the curiosity to want to and the confidence to believe they can,” says the school’s website.