The Arizona Art Education Association, or AAEA, awarded Nancy Murphy, General Myer and Colonel Johnston Elementary Schools visual arts instructor, with the 2013 Middle Level Art Educator of the Year Award at their annual state conference in Sedona Friday. For Murphy, winning the award has been a part of her artistic journey which she described as coming “full circle.”
Murphy described her loving art as a child. In college, she majored in the subject. However, the other part of her college career was focused on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC.
“I grew up loving art, obviously; I majored in it in college, but I just couldn’t quite find the niche. I was in graphic design, and then I was in architecture for a short time and then my professor of military science said I just needed to graduate; I owed the Army time anyway and I could always go back,” Murphy said.
While she reminisced about the art supplies her parents gave her during the holidays and the trips from her home in Philadelphia to New York to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Murphy never imagined she would become an art teacher. After college, Murphy served in the Army for 12 years; her last duty station was here at Fort Huachuca.
“I actually was an instructor for lieutenants. One of my jobs was as a faculty advisor, and I just really enjoyed it,” she said.
Murphy decided to leave the Army after her third child was born. With her new-found interest in teaching, she earned a master’s in teaching from Chapman University. She started out as a first grade teacher, but after one year, she changed her mind.
“I taught regular, general elementary first, but I really wanted to teach art and they were thinking of starting an art program up again at Smith [Middle School on Fort Huachuca] and I thought, it might be a good fit after all these years of denying it,” Murphy explained.
It was Murphy who restarted the art program at Colonel Smith Middle School, or CSMS, almost 20 years ago, which carried over when the school relocated into their new building. However, this year she decided to move to General Myer Elementary School for a change of pace, and to take over for the retiring art teacher, Maureen Brady.
That wasn’t the only transition for Murphy. In addition to teaching at Myer, she also teaches art this year at Colonel Johnston Elementary School, restarting their art program. This makes Murphy one of the rare teachers to have taught at all three Fort Huachuca schools.
Over the years, Murphy has developed two philosophies of teaching. First, art should help students explore and find their creativity. Second, she explained, “I try to treat kids the way I would want somebody to treat my kids.”
Murphy is a member of the AAEA, a professional organization for art educators. She explained the nomination for the award was her idea. With letters of recommendation from Andrea Weigle, CSMS sixth-grade language arts teacher, Robert Henderson, former CSMS and current Colonel Johnston Elementary School principal, Murphy was able to move along in the nomination process by submitting additional artwork and teaching examples later on.
She admitted the process to apply for the award was a lot of work, but to be announced the winner was “really shocking.”
This isn’t the first art teacher award Murphy’s won. In 2004 she was the recipient of the Sierra Vista Mayor’s Award for Art Teacher of the Year.
Art classes are taught at all three Fort Huachuca schools this year. The curriculum is based on the Arizona State Visual Arts Standards.