By Kat Walsh
Talk about a tough competition.
In a room filled with Teachers of the Year – one from each building in the school district – a roomful of those who daily go above and beyond, the task was to pick the winner from the top five finalists to become Beaufort County’s 2016-17 District Teacher of the Year.
“It is not an easy decision, for we are in a roomful of winners,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.
In listing the district’s academic achievements and successes, Moss said that just doesn’t happen without hard work and dedication. “The No. 1 reason we are successful is you.”
Portraits of Success, the theme of the celebration, were read for each of the five finalists: Lawrence Anderson, of Mossy Oaks Elementary School; Bebe Cifaldi, of Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts; Kelly Goudy, of Robert Smalls International Academy; Elizabeth MacMurray, of Hilton Head Island High; and Jennifer Stoddard, of Beaufort Middle School.
As with most in their profession, these finalists do so much more than just “teach.”
Often arriving before sunrise and leaving after sunset, no one works a student school day. They get to know their students and their stories. To their colleagues, they are team leaders and mentors. To their students, they are cheerleaders, listeners, tough-love givers and friends. For their students, they are challengers and champions.
“They are each Teacher of the Year every year,” said Moss, before announcing Elizabeth MacMurray as the 2016-17 District Teacher of the Year.
“I’ll start with ‘Wow!’” said MacMurray, who has been in the classroom since 1982. “I am truly humbled and privileged to be a teacher in the Beaufort County School District.”
MacMurray, the daughter of two teachers and mother of one, said that teaching is in her blood. “If scientists can’t find it in my DNA, then psychologists should study my environment to debate whether nature or nurture influences destiny.”
Amanda O’Nan, principal at Hilton Head Island High, described MacMurray as a teacher she would want her own children to have.
“She has a heart of gold and that’s why our students gravitate to her. Magic happens in her classroom.”
Known as a role model for a teacher in any school setting, MacMurray stressed that teachers needed to stand by one another.
“We must support each other because it is a hard job. We do sacrifice. But when you make that sacrifice and you get to look at kids and see the great things that they can accomplish – wow.”
In presenting MacMurray with a $1,000 grant from the Foundation for Educational Excellence for innovative instruction, Jackie Rosswurm acknowledged how amazing it was to sit in a room with a group of teachers who devote their lives to what is good for students.
But, she said that it also was quite a difficult act to follow: “When you come up to speak after a group of children and adults have spoken about the Teacher of the Year finalists, and then the actual teacher of the year comes up to speak, please!”
In the closing remarks, Carizma Brown, of BCSD communications, spoke about her experience videotaping the students in each finalists’ classroom.
“I thought I was there to just shoot a few videos, and I wound up inspired. You all inspired me so much. And I cannot thank you enough for what you do every day, and every night for our students.”