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North Central Kansas

Clay Center’s Dawn Murphy – Teacher of the Month – Presented by Salina Ortho

Any student who passed through the hallways at Clay Center High School in the last 22 years has probably crossed paths with Dawn Murphy. The English teacher was called by one of her peers as, “one of the most compassionate, caring, and hardest working teachers you will ever meet.”

Murphy started her career as an educator 26 years ago. She landed at Clay Center four years into her career and decided to make it her home.

“I currently teach mostly seniors—English Composition I and II, Public Speaking, English 12/Technical Writing, and Film as Literature,” said Murphy. “I love working with seniors at a time in life when they’re making important decisions like what their post-graduation plans will be and helping them pursue those plans. I also love reading their writing—they have amazing ideas.”

Ask a teacher why they entered the profession and most will tell you they were inspired by a teacher as a student. For Murphy, that inspiration came in the form of many teachers over the years.

“I had a lot of great teachers, but in particular I had a social studies teacher and an English teacher in high school who made teaching look really important and fun. They inspired me to pursue a teaching career,” said Murphy.

Dealing with the pandemic has forced educators to find new ways to reach their students. This challenge is not lost on Murphy thanks to Clay Center’s ability to remain open and the use of new technology, Murphy and her peers are meeting the challenge head-on and succeeding.

“We’ve been fortunate in Clay Center to remain in face-to-face schooling throughout the year. However, like most districts, we’ve had a lot of quarantined students at different times, so I’ve used our online learning systems (Canvas and Schoology) to organize instruction,” said Murphy. “It’s also all about flexibility; for example, quarantined students can give their speeches or collaborate with other students on projects via Zoom. Communication has been extremely important. I try to use our commons area and even our gym to spread out and give students mask breaks during class time.”

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