Two-time FIU alumna Teresa Murphy is now Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ 2022 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year.
The past year was unlike any other the 4th grade teacher at Spanish Lake Elementary has seen in her 27 years of teaching. The 2019-20 academic year brought a global pandemic into the world and the start of the 2020-21 academic year unfortunately brought cancer into her body.
The focus remained on her students.
On Jan. 14, Murphy tweeted a photo and wrote, “Vision. Board. I add a positive word or phrase of inspiration every few days. All my students’ names in the center as the focus of everything I do and say.”
The next day, a new tweet read “Chemo room to classroom.”
Murphy was diagnosed with breast cancer in August. But her students and their parents had no idea she was fighting this disease. She used Snapchat filters for quick and easy glam and Zoom backgrounds to disguise the chemo room.
Nothing stopped this warrior. A combination of her current and former students are her motivation.
Murphy recently received an invitation to the law school graduation of one of her kindergarten students from 1995. She shares she can still remember him asking for help with his writing.
“I want to write dinosaur. But I can read, and I know this does not say dinosaur,” Murphy recalls the student saying.
The student’s quest for knowledge was the fuel to her fire. It was validation of just how much influence ten months in a classroom can have on a child’s life.
Outside of the classroom, Murphy – a stroke survivor – promotes stroke symptom awareness. She founded the Stroke Awareness Can Empower You (S.T.A.C.E.Y.) organization in honor of her friend and colleague, Stacey, who suffered a stroke a year before her.
Murphy also organizes a toy drive with the Chapman Partnership for Homeless every year. The toy collection stemmed 18 years ago when she spoke with her kindergarteners about the difference between wants and needs during the holiday season.
Murphy is the 21st FIU alumni to earn this honor. This year, all four finalists were women and FIU alumni.
“FIU has a long tradition of preparing some of the very best teachers in Miami-Dade County,” Laura Dinehart, senior associate dean in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education said. “We take great pride in preparing our students for the challenges of the classroom and the skills necessary to support student learning and long-term success. We are most proud when alumni, including these incredible women, go above and beyond. They exemplify the very best of FIU. We can only hope to impart the courage, leadership, wisdom and strength they demonstrate every day.”
Over the course her teaching career, Murphy has received multiple honors and recognitions including the Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the year for Kendale Lakes Elementary in 2011, Governor’s Sterling Award Writing Committee and the Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year for Dante B. Fascall Elementary in 2003.
As Teacher of the Year, Murphy hopes to inspire current and future teachers the way she was once inspired.