Jack Murphy from Centennial Elementary

Jack Murphy teaches sixth grade at Centennial Elementary. He teaches math to all the sixth-graders in addition to teaching literature and reading for his homeroom class.

Murphy taught fifth grade for many years at Centennial before moving to sixth grade two years ago. He says his own fifth-grade teacher was an inspiration to him.  “What a great profession this is, helping kids learn,” Murphy recalls thinking as he approached his senior year. He went to a small school in a small town in Pennsylvania.

Murphy also was inspired by his family, which includes other teachers and an uncle who is a college dean. Murphy has six siblings, including a twin sister, and one of his brothers teaches fourth grade.

He did not realize this dream right away, though. He did not finish his degree when he first attended state college. It was later, when he was encouraged by his wife to return to school, that he graduated from the UofA and started teaching. 

Murphy says he tells this story at the beginning of each school year as an example to students that “you can finish what you start.”

Student Francine writes, “Mr. Murphy is such a great math teacher because he knows how to make math interesting and fun.” She notes that she is new to Centennial this year.  Murphy says he was honored by this nomination, especially since it came from a new student. “It shows that you can make an impression in a short time,” he says.

Murphy loves running—he runs every day—and enjoys reading and gardening in his spare time. He has plans for a future hobby. He says he has always been intrigued by glass blowing. He will stand and watch it being done with fascination. Murphy would like to take a class and “take it up as a serious hobby when I retire,” he says.

He says there are parallels between this art and teaching. Both glass art and students take many shapes and require multiple steps to develop. “Every kid is molded differently, is shaped differently,” he notes.

Twin pursuits: Murphy nurtures students, and his twin sister nurtures patients—she works as a nurse.
Hopes: “I just want kids to grow up being kind to each other and being good students,” he says. “I hope to see them 10 years down the road, and they’re happy.”
Edition: 
Tucson