Jennifer Morgan believes that theater impacts the lives of students.

“Theater changes lives,” said the director of theater at Leavenworth High School. “In my four years here, I’ve seen it happen. Theater changes lives.”

Morgan was recognized for her work this week by being named the school district’s secondary teacher of the year.

The high school recognized Morgan in the main hallway of the school this week.

“I’ve never received an award for teaching theater in Kansas,” she said. “I’m super stoked and proud. They pay me to do what I love everyday.”

Morgan was nominated and elected by her peers at the high school.

Morgan is a member of the Kansas Thespian Teacher Hall of Fame and has been recognized with other theater education awards during her 24 years as a theater teacher.

“I’m so proud of the kids and what they do,” she said. “It is hugely important to me to represent them well at the state level.”

Morgan said the theater department produces about 12 shows each year. She said the number of students participating in theater has increased significantly in recent years.

“Our class sizes used to be pretty low,” she said. “Now, the classroom is pretty much maxed out.”

Morgan’s efforts were recently recognized as the theater department received a Rise America grant for $10,000 from NBC and the Educational Theatre Foundation. Leavenworth was one of only 50 schools in the United States to be awarded the grant.

“During her time at Leavenworth High School, Mrs. Morgan has done a phenomenal job in attracting a large number of students to the theater program, helping our students achieve regional, state and national recognition,” said Superintendent Mike Roth in an email. “She is a nationally acclaimed advocate for arts education and has even reached out to our elementary and middle schools to get more students involved before they reach high school age.”

Morgan will direct another student production this weekend. Repertory students will perform an original comedy titled “Unhappily Ever After” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Haymarket Square in downtown Leavenworth. The show is free and open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, the show will be moved to the Performing Arts Center at the high school.