HOPE – An initiative of the Arkansas Department of Education features longtime Clinton Primary School third grade teacher Cynthia Murphy in a series of videos designed to encourage former teachers to return to the field.
The series of four videos for the Teach Again initiative was filmed at CPS in May, 2016, and incorporated into the campaign, which was announced last year by the ADE. ADE Director of Communications Kimberly Friedman developed the videos in conjunction with the Hope Public Schools after ADE Deputy Director Deb Caufman obtained Murphy’s cooperation.
The videos are part of a series of a dozen interviews conducted over two days at CPS with former students, other teachers, parents, and administrators who have known Murphy.
ADE Director Johnny Key unveiled two of the videos at the Hope Rotary Club Teacher of the Year dinner in February.
“These videos are part of an effort to say, ‘We want you to come back; and we are going to make it easier to get back into teaching,’” Key said.
The choice of Murphy was based, in part, upon the common themes which were evident in the series of interviews, including her emphasis upon confidence, celebration, respect, collaboration and responsibility in her classroom.
“No matter how long ago they were in her classroom, they always talk about her that she treated them like they were the only student in the room,” Hope Superintendent Bobby Hart said during the filming. “They don’t come around like her all the time.”
The choice of Murphy for the initiative also revolved around her ability to remain involved with changes in public education.
“The other staff members have taught me a lot; and, that I don’t have to know everything, that I can go to them, especially about things like technology,” Murphy noted.
In her interview, Murphy shows the confidence of her 43 years as a teacher. She is straightforward; and, during the filming process her answers were often too short and to the point for the interviewers, requiring them to ask her to elaborate.
But, that, as learned from other interviewees, is characteristic for Murphy.
“Everybody in the building knows the skill set she has,” Hart explains. “She can teach people who teach better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Murphy’s style in the classroom is a classic memory for many of her students, and a template for new teachers.
“I was always big into music, and she would always play jazz music in the morning,” former student Adriana Rivera explained. “One of things that stuck in my head was Louis Armstrong singing ‘What a Wonderful World.’”
Former students who became teachers, including Julie Lively and Emily Davis both recalled the confidence which Murphy instills in her students; a theme carried over by teacher intern Patience Walker, who taught in Murphy’s room.
“She had the class bring me things I’d need for my first class; folders, pencils, all sorts of things,” Walker said. “And, they made a card for me. She is just so wonderful.”
She said after telling the class that she wasn’t feeling well because of a recent accident, all of Murphy’s students gave her hugs and promised to be on their best behavior while she recovered.
“She shows the class exactly what they need to learn,” Walker said. “The process works because it builds confidence.”
It is a process that emphasizes responsibility for each student, where every student is assigned a daily task that is theirs all year. And, where every student has a unique voice.
“I let them know that everything you are saying is important,” Murphy said. “I let them know that I think every child is important, even if I can’t hear it right now.”
The appeal of the learning environment in Murphy’s classroom is evident.
“Making learning fun is important, because they can’t wait to get into the classroom the next day; and, you can see it on their faces,” Murphy said. “Any time I have a student that has that sparkle in their eye and smile on their face, and I know they’ve learned; that takes the cake.”
Former student Callie Gilbey recalls a skit about the solar system which she still remembers.
“It was something that we learned, that we taught to others,” Gilbey said.
She said taking the expectations which Murphy set in the third grade with her into the fourth grade made her a better student.
“She is the most patient human being I’ve ever been around,” Hart said. “She has a really good gauge of what her students need. Mrs. Murphy makes her classroom a family in the way that no-one knows where they are or that they are below grade level at the start of the year; they all believe they’re superstars.
“It’s not vain praise,” he said. “She makes everybody feel that they are a part of her classroom.”
The four video series may be accessed online at www.arkansased.gov under the “Teach Again” tab.
According to the ADE, Arkansas ranks in the top 20 percent of states nationwide for “teacher attractiveness.” But, the challenges for hiring and retaining teachers has grown as reflected in a 58 percent decline in six years in the employable first-time teacher pool, the ADE notes.
“The Arkansas Department of Education has launched the Teach Again Campaign to create an additional teacher pipeline by bringing outstanding teachers back to the classroom,” the initiative website states.
Murphy serves as the quintessential example of the impact of effective teachers, according to the website.
Eligibility for the Teach Again program is open to teachers who have left the profession and are no longer licensed in Arkansas; teachers who received an initial Arkansas licensure but did not convert that to a standard license; and, retired teachers who do not have a current Arkansas licensure.
Licensure renewal under the program requires an application be submitted to ADE; payment of a $75 fee; completed background check; and completion of 36 hours of professional development.
The professional development requirement is valid through March 31, after which the regular 60-hour rule will apply.
Formerly licensed teachers age 62 and older may be eligible for lifetime licensure under the program.
Additional information regarding Teach Again is available by calling 501-682-4475.