Meet the Teacher: Denise Murphy

Welcome to Meet the Teacher – CodeMonkey’s blog segment where teachers from all over the world share their experiences on what it’s like being an educator. Today’s post features Denise Murphy who is a 6-8 Technology Coordinator and Middle School Technology Teacher at St. Peter Lutheran in Arlington Heights, IL.

I used to be in the corporate world and had a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences.  I could never really decide what I wanted to do with that degree.  But I had friends who were teachers.  When I saw how satisfying and rewarding their careers were, I asked myself: “Why didn’t I ever consider teaching?”  No one in my family was a teacher so I had never really thought of it as an option.  Within 2 weeks I was signed up!  One of the best decisions I ever made.  And my first ‘real’ teaching job was as a middle school biology teacher.  I got the best of both worlds!

I have worked in several different districts in the area and I put a concerted effort into maintaining professional relationships with all of my former coworkers.  In addition, I reach out to various businesses that provide educational material and I build relationships with them as well.  Dremel and their 3D printing program is one example.  I also have several great relationships with various coding companies too.

I currently work in a really small school system, so I have to put extra effort into reaching out side of my walls.  I am currently training to become a district area technology facilitator for our district area Lutheran Schools.  After my training is complete, I would then connect with and provide tech training for other technology teachers, once a month, during the school year.

Teaching exposed me to various upbringings and lifestyles that are so very different than my own experience growing up. Some of that exposure is positive and inspiring, and some is sad. 

However, the true change in my perspective came when I had children of my own.  For me, I was able to become more empathetic and see teaching from a different point of view.  Having children of my own made me change my entire teaching style.  I realized just how important the whole child is and to always put the child’s essential needs first before anything else. 

It’s important to me that my students…make connections between the skills and content they are learning on school and real-life.   It is important to me that they are invested in what they are learning.  If, at any time, my students ask: “Why are we learning this?” or “When are we ever going to need this?”, I stop what we’re doing and we explore the “why”

[My advice for the classroom is] don’t be intimidated.  Start with one small thing.  Then add to it once you’re comfortable with that piece.  Do what works for you.   Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing.  I have never felt I’ve ever been in a place where I feel ‘complete’.  Meaning, there’s always something new to learn – and that will never change.  That’s what’s great about technology.  It’s inherently interesting because it’s always changing.

I truly feel blessed every day to be able to do what I do.  I get to work with both students and teachers.  I have a very calm, low-key personality and demeanor that allows teachers to approach me with basic technology questions and not feel intimidated.  I love that! 

Interestingly, I ended up in technology truly by ‘accident’.  When my 2nd child was born, I decided to stay home from teaching for a while.  When I was ready to return to teaching, it was a difficult time to secure a teaching position as the market was saturated.  Every position I applied for was filled internally or with recent grads.  My big break came when a former district offered me a position co-teaching in a 1,200 square-foot applied technology lab that they were having a hard time filling because it wasn’t considered a permanent position.  I took it and worked with one of the most amazing teachers who taught me more about tech in the 5 years I was there (so much for not permanent!), than I could have ever imagined.  And for that, I am forever grateful to him.”

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