When students learn differently


Morrison School, one of the hidden gems of the Mountain Empire, is now in its 36th year of serving students with unique learning needs. This little heralded but remarkably successful school has as its mission to equip and empower students who learn differently to achieve up to their maximum potential by instilling in them the academic proficiency, personal values, self-confidence, motivation, and social competence necessary for personal happiness, job success, and good citizenship. It is the philosophy of the school that all students, given average intelligence, above average persistence and determination, appropriate and effective parenting and teaching, can achieve an uncompromised education.

Although there are a number of such specialized private schools around the country, they usually are found in larger and more affluent communities. Only through the dedication of highly qualified staff members and support from the community can we have such a school in this community.

Students served at Morrison School range from those who are abundantly gifted and talented to those of average or low average ability. What these students have in common is their need for a different approach to education than is offered in traditional public and private school programs. The students who come to Morrison School learn best and thrive personally in the highly structured but stimulating and challenging environment that distinguishes Morrison School. Often by the time the students reach the school, they have fallen significantly behind their classmates and their self-image is at rock bottom. Many of the students enter the program feeling defeated, hurt and angry. They have suffered rejection for their differences, ridicule for their shortcomings, punishment for weaknesses they can’t help and have experienced failure for reasons they don’t understand. Others enter as fun-loving social butterflies who do not realize the importance and seriousness of education and must learn how to accept responsibility and adequately apply themselves.

Students who come to the school may be advanced in their intellectual maturity and some academic skills, but they are not working up to their potential. Students may have weaknesses in reading, written language, and/or math. They may have difficulty with auditory processing and interpretation of spoken and written language. Or, their learning may be interfered with by a short attention span, poor focus, and high distractibility.
Over time without appropriate intervention, students coming to Morrison School may have become over dependent with a tendency to avoid responsibility. Students may also lag behind their age peers in personal and social maturity resulting in problems adapting to their school, community, and/or home environments. Some students come to Morrison School because parents themselves need the in-depth support and parenting guidance that is available at the school relative to the unique needs of many young folks in today’s challenging world.

Despite the differences of these unique and extraordinary students, they meld together at the school so beautifully into one body of young people who grow to care about and reach out to each other and who learn to appreciate and respect each other for the very characteristics that make them different. In this environment of mutual encouragement and acceptance, they grow in their self-esteem and confidence and that grow in their ability to learn as students and interact successfully as social beings.

The long-term goal of Morrison School is to provide each student with lifelong learning strategies necessary to achieve his or her maximum potential personally, socially and in the workplace. The school fosters academic excellence while promoting integrity, responsibility, independence, commitment to a free and democratic society, a generous and compassionate spirit toward others, and the sense of an inner light which reflects the presence of a higher being.



Sharon Morrison has been the chief administrative director and school psychologist at Morrison School in Bristol, Va., since its founding in 1977. Contact her at

The Morrison School is located at 139 Terrace Drive, Bristol, VA; call us at 276-669-2823 or email us at