Fifth Grade Literacy Teacher | Kilpatrick Elementary School
Kashandra Murphy is not new to education. She has taught for 16 years in education and has filled teaching roles through Pre-K, Kindergarten, and third- and fifth-grade Literacy. She has taught at Harmony Leadership Academy, Union Elementary School, Westlawn Elementary School, Miller County Headstart, and this year begins a new stage of her professional career at Kilpatrick Elementary School. Eight of her total years of service have been within the Texarkana Arkansas School District. Murphy is committed to the education profession as she uses her God-given gift. “I wholeheartedly believe that I am walking in my purpose when it comes to being a servant to others, especially when it comes to changing the lives of others I encounter daily. Although it gets tough, at times, I have learned to not get bent out of shape because change is and will come,” Murphy says.
“Tough” is an accurate word to describe some educators’ days. “The most challenging part of being in education are the ever-changing policies, laws, and end-of-the-year assessments,” says Murphy. “I overcome these challenges by not allowing them to change or limit who I am as an educator, nor do I allow these challenges to take away from the instruction and experiences I provide for my students. The needs of my students are my priority and at the core of everything I do.”
Like many educators, Murphy was influenced at a young age to begin a career as an educator. She decided to go into education because she wanted to serve others and impact students’ lives just as her teachers did for her. “I can think back to being a little girl, using my imagination, by setting up a pretend classroom and having my stuffed animals as students. I knew at an early age that I would become a teacher. I wanted to grow up to be just like my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Fussell. We were more than just students on a roster. We were her children, and she loved us. She provided a loving environment that holds many memories near to my heart,” says Murphy. She knew she wanted to provide the same for the students that Mrs. Fussell did for her. Murphy adds, “There’s no doubt that Mrs. Fussell is proud of the educator I am, which is evident in our personal conversations through texting or phone calls.”
As the school year begins, Murphy shares her personal story to help lay the foundation for the relationship she prays to foster through the school year. Murphy explains, “At the beginning of each school year, I share how I grew up in the College Hill neighborhood, in Bramble Courts, a public housing complex, with my mother and older brother. I share that I attended College Hill Elementary School, North Heights Junior High School and graduated from Arkansas High School. When I tell my story, my students sit with such moving expressions on their faces. I always get responses like, ‘Ms. Murphy, I can’t believe you grew up where I stay.’ ‘So, you graduated from this school district and became a teacher here as well?’” Murphy believes this helps to build trust and rapport with her students.
Murphy also allows her life experiences to shape who she is as an educator. Her brother died in June 2019, and Murphy contracted COVID-19 in October 2020. These experiences reaffirmed the purpose of her life. “Losing my brother has heightened my awareness of the signs of depression. I learned to be more intentional when it comes to my interactions with my students by providing a safe space for them. I try my best to listen without judgment when they need to express themselves,” Murphy says. “October 2020 will always be a time of reflection in my life. I was one of four educators who contracted COVID-19 at that time. Contracting COVID-19 resulted in two hospitalizations in Texarkana, Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas. During my hospitalization in Little Rock, I wasn’t sure if I would return because I was gravely ill. I felt life slipping away and felt like there was nothing I could do about it.” Being able to Facetime, when Murphy felt like it, with her family, students, and co-educators helped to lead her towards recovery in addition to the medication being given. Murphy points out, “Seeing my family and students cry lit a fire under me in which I was determined to beat COVID-19. I did just that and was able to return to Texarkana. These experiences will always be reminders of the grace I have over my life. My work is not done yet as I have more lives to impact.”
Speaking of impacting lives, Murphy believes this is the most rewarding part of working in education. “I get great joy when former students and parents send graduation announcements, military enlistments, college selections, and other accomplishments and achievements throughout their lives. To know they think that much of me, beyond the classroom, is a reward in a class all by itself.” Adding to those beautiful, rewarding moments is Murphy’s most recent accomplishment of being named one of the fourteen regional finalists for Arkansas State Teacher of the Year. Murphy exclaims, “I never imagined my gift, as an educator, going beyond my classroom or my local district in Texarkana, Arkansas. This accomplishment has reassured me that I am doing something right, in my profession, even on my toughest days. Being recognized at the state level offers an opportunity to share who I am as an educator and to meet and network with other educators who are impacting students’ lives.”