Ms. Jodi Morley continues to surprise her former students with words from their past selves


courtesy of Ms. Jodi Morley

Morley and her son, Trey (now 13), who helped her establish her program at East.

Mrs. Jodi Morley began her teaching career in the 2001-2002 school year at Winslow Township High School. After only being a teacher for a few days, she sat in her classroom as she and her students watched the coverage of the tragic 9/11 attacks on their classroom television. Experiencing such a horrifying time together allowed the class to develop a strong bond, one that they shared with both each other and with Morley. At the end of the school year, Morley was devastated at the possibility of never seeing these students again.

“I thought about the future, and I knew that even though these young people were walking out the door, they would remain in my heart forever.” Morley continued. “They would go on to grow and change so much, to have so many life experiences, but in my mind, they would remain frozen in time as those energetic and inquisitive fourteen years old who had their whole lives in front of them.”

With that, Morley launched her time capsule letters. Students would create them in their freshman year, describing what they liked at that period in their lives. This included hobbies, interests, family, friends, and goals and aspirations for the future. After writing the letter, each student put their letter in an envelope and put their home address on it, with an extra credit opportunity if they put a stamp on their envelope, which Morley provided for the students who were interested. All of the envelopes were stored in a larger envelope labeled with the year that they had to be mailed out, the year that the class would be freshmen in college, and stored in her closet.

Morley loves looking through these letters as it is her way of supporting her students, even from a distance.

“I thought of each one of them while sifting through the pile, [wondering] where they were and how they were doing. I felt like this time capsule, a piece of their past, was a way that I could show them that I still cared about them,” Morley said.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the time capsules tricky, but not impossible.

While the world was in lockdown, the closet that was used to store the letters was moved out of Morley’s classroom. Morley was forced to go into the building alone to search through countless files and furniture to find all of her saved letters. She successfully secured the letters, which she kept in her home until her recent move to Cherry Hill East. The other teachers in the English department have helped her in the process of mailing out the letters and giving them to family.

One of the best parts of this project is the response Morley gets from her students when they read the letters they wrote as their “past selves”. Some comment on the similarities and differences between their lives then and now, the goals they achieved, and others simply thank Morley for helping them to create something that they can always take with them.

“Every year I hear from students who thank me for sending this letter. They often laugh at themselves for a variety of reasons such as their bad handwriting, their cheesy sayings, or the things they thought were important but were not,” said Morley.

Each student’s reaction is different, but all speak to one common message: our past influences, informs and inspires our future. Oftentimes, reflecting and looking back on past experiences helps us to understand how much we have grown and what that growth will lead to as we grow up and take on more responsibilities.

Morley loves teaching and doing this project each year as she has the opportunity to meet young students at the start of their journeys.

She expresses the satisfaction and realization that comes from seeing her students hopes and dreams develop into reality,”I think we could all benefit from believing that fairy tales really can come true,” said Morley.

Afterall, many of these students can’t imagine their fairy tale without a little help from their fairy godmother: Ms. Jodi Morley.