Featuring Montrose Teachers: Mrs. Murphy

“I live a very simple but happy life”

Mrs. Murphy is always seen in Montrose’s hallway, often rushing to get to her next class whether it be Algebra II or AP Calculus BC. Her face is never short of a huge smile greeting students passing her. She is the backbone of the math department at Montrose, and her love for the subject is reflected in her willingness to highlight each individual’s student capabilities in math as well as in her classroom lessons. Mrs. Murphy balances an extremely busy home life, with 4 children and a dog, and teaching advanced math classes at school. We sat down with Mrs. Murphy and asked her about her most memorable stories from her childhood, her biggest female role models, her experience at Montrose and more. 

Mrs. Murphy is the fourth out of five children. She recalls that as a 70s child, her and siblings were “left to their own devices” and often spent their time playing outside together until it was time for dinner. She recalls: “I had a very happy childhood.”  Mrs. Murphy’s interest in a STEM-based career was instilled in her at a young age. Her father worked as an electrical engineer while her mother taught chemistry. Eventually her father became a teacher as well. Mrs. Murphy explains that coming from a big family with brothers and sisters, her family never subscribed to gender barriers with respect to career paths, and she and her sisters were encouraged to pursue the same education and opportunities as her brothers. 

Mrs. Murphy’s alma mater, shared with all of her sisters, is the University of Notre Dame. She began with a plan to major in and teach history but as she spent more time at college, she shifted to an engineering path. In her time at Notre Dame, Mrs. Murphy realized she had a deeply vested love for learning — the thought of sitting in classes excited her. However, she also noticed the clear disproportionalities in her learning environment. “My engineering classes didn’t have a lot of women in them. My engineering professors were all men.” Because of this, Mrs. Murphy grew to love an environment that had a mission to highlight the talents of young girls. 

While she is now surrounded by women at her career at Montrose, female influences have played an important role in her life from the start. When asked to name women that she takes inspiration from, her immediate response is her mother. Born in 1934 and experiencing the divide in gender roles and expectations at the time, her mother lived a full life: an alumna of Regis College and former Pfzier employee, she highly valued education and refused to solely rely on marriage as the plan for her future and success. When she became pregnant, she hid her pregnancy to continue working, as the standard at the time was to end your career to begin a family. She raised her five children and continued to work as a teacher, so it’s no wonder that Mrs. Murphy looks up to her. However, her mother isn’t her only role model: Mrs. Murphy recognizes “every single female in my life” as an inspiration. She cites her sisters, college roommates, and other teachers at Montrose as role models for their balance of career and family.

After completing her education, Mrs. Murphy had moved to Chicago to teach in communities that were much more racially diverse than the communities she grew up in. In teaching math to students in Chicago public schools, Mrs. Murphy recalls having realized the importance of helping students of all backgrounds and acknowledging the societal gender and racial barriers that existed in learning. In the backdrop of her fresh teaching career, Mrs. Murphy met her husband in Chicago during a soccer game with friends. After having her first 2 sons in Chicago, she moved to Massachusetts with her family.

In Massachusetts, Mrs. Murphy found a job as a professor at a local college. However, the large class size left no room for her to form personal relationships with her students. In a search to find teaching jobs that would allow her to connect with students, Mrs. Murphy met Ms. Hughes. For a short time, Mrs. Murphy filled in for Ms. Hughes’ job at Franklin High School while she was on maternity leave. Ms. Hughes notes: “From the very first time I met Mrs. Murphy, she wowed me. I sat in on her interview lesson and was so impressed. She was enthusiastic, engaging, and knew how to explain the topics to students so that they could understand. I knew immediately that she was the person I wanted to teach my classes while I was on maternity leave.” In 2017, Mrs. Murphy heard about Montrose through Ms Osborne and felt that the Montrose mission, a mission committed to catering to each young girl’s potential and talents, reminded her of Notre Dame. “It brought me back to my roots and at that point in my life I was really ready to see girls prosper. Once you’re at Montrose, you can’t imagine yourself anywhere else.”

Synergy between career and family is constantly on the forefront of Mrs. Murphy’s mind: a mother to four boys and teacher of two math courses at Montrose, she is constantly trying to strike the perfect balance between work and home life. Her faith, hobbies, the women around her, and advice from Mrs. Kris have all helped her manage her career and home life, where she says: “My second job starts.” In her free time, Mrs. Murphy loves to read, go on walks, work on puzzles, explore Desmos, and play sports with her boys outside. In the past, she has also run marathons and coached soccer for her children’s teams.

Especially in 2021, her faith has played a major role in her family’s life. When her family was battling Covid, her faith and love for her husband and children were two of the driving forces that helped her get through the illness. Another concept that she finds great comfort in, during not only her encounter with Covid but also her daily life, is some advice from a fellow Montrose faculty member. Mrs. Kris advocates for the idea of forgiving herself in a realistic, compassionate manner. “With the idea of forgiving myself, I’ve come a long way. Sometimes I’ll teach a lesson and say to my husband: ‘What happened? That was such a bad lesson!’ but I remind myself that tomorrow will always be a better day.” Mrs. Murphy is quick to emphasize that this does not entail thinking of oneself as a victim but instead accepting mistakes you may have made and allowing yourself to move on. 

Mrs. Murphy’s faith, compassion, and cheerful determination are all greatly appreciated by the Montrose community as a part of what makes her such a great teacher and colleague. AP Calculus BC student Neha Sunkara ‘21 says: “Mrs. Murphy’s dedication and passion for her work can be seen in everything she does. When she teaches, she makes sure her students thoroughly understand the material. Mrs. Murphy inspires me to persevere through my challenges.” Her coworker and longtime friend Mrs. Hughes says: “I was so excited to be able to work with Mrs. Murphy again [at Montrose]! She is the type of colleague everyone would want. She is also a great friend.” At Montrose, these sentiments are pretty universal: Montrose is so lucky and grateful to have Mrs. Murphy as a teacher, a colleague, a role model, a mentor, and a friend.

Spandana Vagwala ‘22, Co Assistant Editor-in-Chief and Tess Farr ‘22, Copy Editor

22svagwala@montroseschool.org & 22tfarr@montroseschool.org