On May 11, 2002 (my 18th birthday) I officially graduated from high school with my class. The ceremony was bittersweet for me. It had been nearly three months since I had seen anyone from my graduating class or from my high school. We really didn’t have much of anything to say to one another. The only point where I felt true sadness was when I had to say goodbye to the best teacher I ever had. Michael Murphy was a history teacher at Risco, and one of the most influential teachers I ever had. He always knew that I was capable of more than I ever did, and always supported and tried to push me to better for myself.
Mr. Murphy coached the Academic Team (like Quiz Bowl here on the East Coast) and always insisted that I was on the team because I was too smart not to be. I loved him much like a child loves their parent, and I wish that I had told him that. Mr. Murphy was the type of teacher that taught, not for money, but for love. It was his way of making the world a better place, one student at a time.
When I had moved to Risco, MO towards the end of my 7th-grade year, my classes changed drastically. I went from taking courses that were considered 10th grade at Risco to courses that were 4th or 5th grade level in Bronson, FL. I was dropped into total chaos, and my grades suffered badly because of it. I was bored, and I was too close to the end of the year to catch up with a semester and a half of courses.
The class that was worse for me was my history class. In Bronson, I had been in World Geography and had an A in the class, but when I transferred I was put into a Civics class that was taught by Mr. Murphy. I hated the class, and I hated the teacher. I was angry that we had moved. I was angry because I didn’t know anyone and no one seemed to like me because my skin was tanned from spending so much time outside in Florida and to them I looked “Mexican”. I was confused and angry about the changes that my body was beginning to go through. I didn’t want to make up six months of classwork and studies and so I suffered horribly in Mr. Murphy’s class. I felt like he was being mean to me because he was tough on me.
While the classes in Bronson were more advanced, they also had a larger student to teacher ratio. In Bronson, there were about 30 to 35 students in each class. In Risco, there were 12 students in my graduating class.
I barely passed my civics class and was happy to be rid of the teacher that I thought was evil and I hated.
The next year I took World History with a different teacher. The teacher never lectured and instead opted for telling us to read from the book while he read sports columns. He was nothing more than a warm body in the classroom. This was the first year that I joined the Academic Team and got the chance to know Mr. Murphy outside of class.
Over my 8th grade year, I came to understand that the only reason Mr. Murphy was so hard on his students was because he loved each and every one of them. He wanted to see his students succeed and surpass all expectations of them, even their own. Needless to say, my opinion of him changed.
During the next three and a half years of my high school experience, I made sure that I was in Mr. Murphy’s class. Even when I was so depressed that I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed, I did because I didn’t want to disappoint the one person that I felt like really cared.
As I left the cafeteria that day nearly 13 years ago I promised myself that I would do something with my life that would make Mr. Murphy proud of me. I just hope that I have followed through. I hope that my courage to stand up for what I believe in and fight for what I feel in my heart is right has made Mr. Murphy proud to have shared some nearly 6 years of my life with me.
I am grateful for the man who used his G.I. Bill from the military to get a degree in teaching. I am grateful for the man that stayed countless hours after school to help students with History Day, tutoring, and academics in general.
I am honored to have had him for my teacher because Murphy taught me more than just history, government and current events. He taught me how to think for myself, question everything and most important of all, to believe in myself.
Thank you, Mr. Michael Murphy, wherever you are. Thank you.