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Teaching With Dr. Annie Morien

Teaching massage therapy can be difficult but also very rewarding! Learn how 2015 Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year award winner Dr. Annie Morien manages to keep her classroom relaxed, while she also gets the most out of her students. 

How did you first get involved in the massage therapy profession?

I was introduced to massage therapy about 29 years ago when I taught A&P for Ruth Carlson, at Carlson College of Massage Therapy (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).  Ruth was very supportive and provided one of my earliest opportunities to teach.  Although I was not a massage therapist at the time, I was intrigued by the effect that massage had on the body.  My Master’s degree thesis examined the effect of massage therapy on recovery in athletes.  After attaining my PhD, I returned to massage therapy – I attended the Florida School of Massage.

What inspired you to teach?

I really enjoyed my first anatomy class in college. My teacher sensed my enthusiasm and asked if I was interested in tutoring a few students that were struggling in the class.  The opportunity was exciting yet scary—I had no idea how to morph from being the “learner” to being the “teacher.”  I became intrigued with the process of teaching and, as an extension, learning.  I discovered that I loved helping the students in my first anatomy class. That opportunity defined my career path and also opened my eyes to how people learn.

How do you keep students engaged?

I keep the class moving—both physically and mentally.  I alternate between linear (note-taking), classroom activities (crossword puzzles) and physical movement (stretching and simple deep breathing).  I strive to present class material that is pertinent to their lives, such as pathology and “real-life” scenarios.  And I try to make learning fun.

What are some of the differences between massage therapy students and other adult learners?

I’ve taught at various universities, community colleges and massage therapy schools. I believe that all adult learners, regardless of their background, want to learn but may not know how to learn.  That’s the job of the teacher - to teach students how to use various learning strategies.  Regarding differences, I find that massage therapy students ask questions that reflect the massage school environment – questions that are imaginative, from the heart, and with sincere interest.  I love their questions - they make me think beyond the mainstream views.  In turn, this challenges and inspires me to be more creative in my teaching. 

How do you incorporate newer technologies into your teaching lessons?

Regarding newer technologies, I use visually attractive Power Point slides in the classroom and I show pertinent YouTube videos.  I use anatomy apps and encourage exploration of apps for personal learning. Outside of class, I use technology to generate A&P-related crossword puzzles from on-line programs. I communicate with the students via FaceBook, and I encourage the use of social media in marketing their careers.

However, I also use non-high tech teaching techniques. For example, I use a whiteboard to draw certain anatomical structures; this allows the subject matter to unfold in color and at a slower pace.

What is your advice to those looking to get into massage education?

Keep up with the changing technology but don’t forget to use the good old-fashioned teaching skills in the classroom.  Tap into the various ways students learn. I encourage them to read the material before class, write down difficult concepts, listen and repeat new terms.  Also, I encourage the students to try tutoring other students. Above all, have fun in the classroom- by creating a fun atmosphere, the stress levels come down and the learning expands.

Why are you an AMTA member?

AMTA has positively affected my career in multiple ways.  I believe I am a better massage therapist and teacher because of the opportunities that  AMTA provides, such as the AMTA National Convention and our local Florida AMTA chapter.  These meetings allow me to network with other AMTA members, and learn new techniques and ideas.  Also, I’ve had the honor of presenting at the National Convention, which provided me the opportunity to teach as well as meet other convention presenters. 

In addition, AMTA provides the opportunity to network with other teachers at the Teachers Day Luncheon.  It is an occasion to discuss current trends in education and support other teachers.  I am very honored to have received the Jerome Perlinski teaching award. 

The AMTA website has helped my massage therapy practice with their tips on marketing, massage therapy research resources, and online CE courses.  And the AMTA’s Massage Therapy Journal (MTJ), Hands On and School Advantage newsletters are great resources for all massage therapists.  I’ve had the honor of writing articles for MTJ and find the editorial staff very encouraging and supportive. 

AMTA has helped me in so many ways!   

What is the one thing you wish you had known before going into massage therapy?

I wish I had attended massage school earlier in my life! 

Nominations for AMTA’s 2016 Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award are being accepted through December 12. Anyone can nominate a massage school teacher for this award.

Nominate an exceptional teacher 

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Karen T., AMTA member since 2002

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