A district-level award designed to recognize outstanding secondary teachers in Garland ISD was bestowed to a Sachse High School English teacher in his second career.
Nestled into the high school’s English wing, freshly adorned with “Romeo and Juliet” artwork, a classroom decorated with more student work and personal effects houses this year’s winner: John Murray. In a few short moments, the passion he has for his students is evident through his pride of helping students of different backgrounds express their understanding of class material.
Additionally, he beams when describing the feelings of winning Garland ISD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year award in 2023, at a time when he says is the most difficult time to teach. Between virtual and hybrid learning and reacclimating to in-person instruction, there have been plenty of obstacles, said Murray, not to mention heightened angst around classroom instruction.
His proudest achievement in the classroom is building relationships with his students as a “stand-up guy” that also allows them to feel comfortable expressing their interpretations of classroom work. During the interview, he spoke of the privilege he had to accompany a baseball player at the school’s teacher appreciation game Tuesday, April 11, while donning eye black and a baseball jersey.
Murray said he encourages students to express their interpretations of work in different ways because it helps unlock their full potential and talent.
“It unleashes the creative talent they have,” Murray said. “It’s that kind of unleashing that I’m most proud of.”
He also promotes an atmosphere of having fun in the classroom and celebrating “being 14 or 15 years old.” Murray says that passion allows him to forge those meaningful relationships with his students while also helping him feel young. He also acknowledges that not all lesson plans fit one particular student, which leads to an approach of getting to know his students.
“When these kids know you really care about them, it brings out their best,” Murray said. “I learn which buttons to push and find a way to do all of that in the same class.”
For the application, he described a rigorous process that included applying at Sachse High School and being named its teacher of the year before advancing to the district-level. At the next level, he faced the top teachers in Garland ISD from both high school and middle school campuses that total 19 campuses.
To be eligible, he was nominated by his peers and asked to complete a series of five, 500-700-word essays discussing topics including his philosophy of education and how he inspires his students. In his opinion, he was facing off among the best-of-the-best in the district with his award coming as a surprise given the competition.
“It was a shock,” Murray said. “I know a lot of the teachers and it’s an all-star team.”
Speaking of his recognition, he circled back to relationships with his students, administrators and parents.
“It’s a reflection on my students, team I lead and my relationship with students’ parents,” Murray said. “All of those elements have to be in the perfect balance to work well.”
For the full story, see the April 20 issue of The Sachse News.