PROFILE: Watch me: Morgan Lambert returns to her stomping grounds as both a teacher and coach

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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By ANNA GRACE MOORE | Magazine Editor

Bellowing out, “Go Big Blue,” are the Jaguars’ biggest fans, decked head to toe in Carolina blue and black. Jaguar Stadium roars with thunderous applause as the Spain Park football team storms the field, hyping up the crowd for another evening of Friday night lights.

Morgan Lambert, a Spain Park High School alumna herself, grins from ear to ear, watching her cheerleaders start the wave that transcends each row of students and fans alike. The old, faithful Jag Rag is playing in the distance, which is one tune sharp enough to elicit a tear from a diehard fan’s eye.

Morgan is not able to jump and cheer like she once was, but her cheerleaders hit every note, stunting girls 10 feet into the air, commanding the crowd’s attention and praise.

Although bittersweet, Morgan stands to the side, proudly watching. “We did it, dad,” she thinks to herself.

Hail Mary

After graduating from Spain Park High School, Morgan attended Mississippi State University—her father’s alma mater—and the school, she says, that would change her life’s trajectory. She initially went into the school of communication to become a sports journalist.

However, after only four semesters, Morgan says the internships she completed never made her as happy as her summer job with Universal Cheerleaders Association, which teaches summer cheerleading camps to middle school and high school students.

“That job really showed me that I have a passion for this age group,” Morgan recalls.

For as long as she could remember, family members, friends, even some in the workforce told her not to go into education because of the field’s pay and working conditions. Deep down, however, she always knew she wanted to become a teacher.

It wasn’t until Morgan confided in her biggest cheerleader–her father, Gary Lambert–that she mustered up the courage to change her major. Gary told her never to let anyone’s negativity stop her from pursuing her dream, and to the haters, just say, “Watch me.”

“If you cut him open, he would bleed baby blue,” Morgan says of her father. “He really loved (Spain Park). You would have thought he was an alum.”

Gary never missed out on Friday night lights at Jaguar Stadium. In fact, when his eldest child, Cary Lambert Tidmus, enrolled at Spain Park in 2006, Gary began tailgating with his RV in the school’s parking lot every Friday afternoon.

When Morgan became a freshman in 2013, Gary carried on the tailgating tradition, never missing a game. He loved watching his daughter cheer.

“Her dad would be so proud of what she accomplished,” Ashelie Halla, Spain Park English teacher and Morgan’s former cheerleading coach says. “He loved to watch her cheer. I’m sure he is smiling down on her.”

One week after Morgan threw her own Hail Mary and switched to majoring in education, Gary passed away on Aug. 31, 2019. Morgan had just begun her junior year of college, her new classes as an education major and what she later considered as one of the hardest years of her life.

Navigating life without her father felt as though she was the only fan left cheering—the crowd had given up, gone home.

Not long after Gary’s passing, Morgan jumped right back into school, juggling classes, cheer and the crippling weight of the world collapsing on her shoulders. She questioned whether she made the right decision, switching her major so late in the game.

But, like her father, Morgan has an unbreakable spirit–as any good cheerleader should have. She expected challenges in the months to come, but she was not going down without a fight.


Several months into her junior year, Morgan had a major disc slip in her spinal column, causing her to collapse and lose feeling in her legs for several hours. Once she regained her strength, she toughened it out and continued the rest of her work day.

Amazingly, Morgan also continued cheering throughout her college career, neglecting getting back surgery for three years until the inevitable caught up with her in September 2022. She says at the time of her injury, she was not aware of how much nerve damage she had acquired from cheering competitively for 20 years.

Morgan received an epidural pain block before the COVID-19 outbreak, saying she trained for 20 years to be a college cheerleader and was not going to let some “back pain” prevent her from living out both her and her father’s dream. Cheering made Morgan feel closer to her dad, and as the months passed, her memories with him began to fade.

So, Morgan continued to cheer, to talk about her father and to “live like Gary,” radiating positivity everywhere she went.

During this time, she faced adversity head-on in her educational journey. When choosing what she would teach, Morgan said while she was interested in history, her advisor warned her how hard it is for a woman in the South to become a social studies teacher.

Watch me, she said.

Morgan got her first taste on the other side of the classroom as an educator, student-teaching at East Webster High School. She taught seventh grade social studies and immediately felt invigorated–as though she would no longer have to fake it until she made it.

“It was a blessing of a place,” she recalls of East Webster.

Shortly after finishing student-teaching, Morgan graduated from Mississippi State and began the infamous job hunt. Around this time, a job opportunity for a social studies teacher opened up at her stomping grounds–Spain Park.

“When she told me that she switched her major, I got very excited,” Ashelie recalls. “I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you came back and coached with me?’”

Sure enough, Ashelie spoke to Spain Park’s administration, helping Morgan get one foot in the door. Morgan interviewed for the job in July 2021, and two weeks later, she was hired.


During Morgan’s first year teaching, she taught ninth grade world history and 12th grade government and economics, and she also helped coach Spain Park’s cheerleading squads. Now in her third year at Spain Park, Morgan teaches both government and economics and is the head coach of the entire cheerleading program.

Morgan is only 24 years old and is one of the youngest educators at Spain Park–which was recently rated in the top 10 best high schools in the state of Alabama by the U.S. News and World Report.

“I couldn’t imagine teaching anything else,” she says. “Especially in the world we live in, being able to teach how our government works and how our economy works is such pertinent information for kids to go out into the real world. I’m very glad I get to teach that and be a part of their lives.”

While teaching post-pandemic as a first-time teacher was intimidating, Morgan says Spain Park was the most welcoming community. The only weird part about her job was learning to call her former teachers by their first names.

Several of Morgan’s former teachers are also now her colleagues–and she still looks to them for guidance.

Talking about one of her own government and economics teachers, Todd Parker, Morgan says, “To this day, he is one of the most fantastic teachers I’ve ever had in my life. I know how much of an impact he made on me, so a lot of what I try to emulate is that impact for my students.”

Walking down the social studies hall at Spain Park, she says it is just one personality after another. Every educator is unique, bringing powerful teaching tactics to the classroom and igniting a yearning to learn in every student.

AP U.S. History teacher Rick Stamper was not one of Morgan’s teachers, but even she knew his name as a student at Spain Park. Morgan says Rick is not only one of the most well-respected, inspirational teachers, but he is also one students seem to gravitate toward.

His ability to connect with his students, making them eager to come to class and learn, is one facet of his personality she tries to model.

Another teacher Morgan loves and even credits a lot of her success to is none other than the 2022 Spain Park High School Teacher of the Year, Jill Wallace. Jill was Morgan’s mentor teacher when Morgan began teaching at Spain Park.

“A mentor teacher to a new teacher relationship has turned into the greatest friendship,” Morgan says. “I’ve grown so much more confident in my ability to teach and my reason for being here, (thanks to her).”

Their classrooms are next door to each other, so they will often catch up before school starts and enjoy each other’s company on breaks. Morgan even posted a picture with her on the first day of school this year, captioning the photo, “Season Three: Episode One.”

“I was super excited when she got the job at Spain Park,” Jill says. “She is fabulous in the classroom. Her responsibilities have grown so much and are huge for her age. She’s brought a new dynamic to the history department, and it’s awesome.”


Finding one’s niche can sometimes take years, but Morgan found hers not long after learning to walk. She began cheering competitively at age 3 with ACE in Homewood, where she continued cheering until she was 15.

She also cheered as a student at Berry Middle School, Spain Park High School and of course, Mississippi State. Spain Park High School was founded in 2001, and by 2015, Morgan’s sophomore year, Spain Park began competing in the National High School Cheerleading Championship.

In 2016, she spearheaded the varsity team’s mission and helped take the team to nationals, where Spain Park made it to the final round for the first time in only the school’s second year of competing. Morgan says there were schools, which were built before the ‘80s, competing, so for Spain Park to make it that far was phenomenal.

Unfortunately, Spain Park went through a drought and did not make it to the final round at nationals until 2022. In spring 2023, Morgan took over the cheerleading program as head coach.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’” Morgan says. “We were not as talented as every other team there, but we worked hard. We did our job and came up in the rankings.”

Spain Park’s 2023-24 competition cheer season kicked off at the Space Center Regionals on Oct. 21. Spain Park’s varsity team won first place for both its traditional and game day routines, and Spain Park’s junior varsity team won second place for its traditional routine and first place for its game day routine.

“One of her strongest attributes is she wants to see other people being successful, and she wants to pass on her love and passion,” Ashelie says. “Whatever it may be, she is going to make those students the best that they can possibly be.”

While Morgan’s back surgery has limited her athleticism, it has not dampened her spirit. Every practice, every game day and every competition, spectators can find her cheering on her athletes, pushing them to their limits and helping them become better versions of themselves–both inside and out.

“As much as we like to win, it’s all about the process,” she says. “Overall, I want them to know how much I love them and how much of an impact they make on my life every day just by being themselves.”

Coming back to teach and cheer at Spain Park was a no-brainer, Morgan says. When she realized she got the job, she says she felt like she finally scored—her underdog story had finally come full circle.

Every day she walks into Spain Park, Morgan is reminded of her father’s smile when she told him she was going to do it–she was going to become a teacher. What a funny coincidence that she is not only teaching and coaching at her grassroots, but also at the place her father loved so much.

“It feels like a total God thing that I landed here, getting to do what I’m doing and coach as well,” Morgan says. “Being a teacher and a coach is exactly what I was put on this Earth to do, and getting to do it here is just awesome.”