Elizabeth MacMurray knew early on what she wanted to do for a living. With two teachers for parents, the Hilton Head Island woman has fond memories of spending time at school with them, pretending to teach her own students.
As a child, she would write on the chalkboard in her mother’s classroom after school. She loved playing with a neighbor who had her own chalkboard, and lining up her stuffed animals — along with her little sister — on many occasions for pretend classes at home.
Her dream came true, and now, after 30 years in the classroom, the Hilton Head Island High School ninth-grade English teacher is getting some recognition for all of her hard work. MacMurray was named the Beaufort County School District Teacher of the Year for the 2016-17 school year.
“I literally was in shock,” MacMurray said of the moment she found out she was selected for the honor. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Along with her new title came her choice of a $5,000 cash prize from Hilton Head Buick-GMC-Cadillac or a $5,000 credit to be used for purchasing a new vehicle at the dealer’s invoice price.
The Foundation for Educational Excellence also awarded MacMurray $1,000 as part of the Dr. Wayne Carbiener Above and Beyond Beaufort County Public School District Teacher of the Year Recognition Grant. The money will be used to augment innovative instruction in the classroom.
As teacher of the year, MacMurray gets to represent Hilton Head Island High School at monthly Teacher Forum meetings. She also had the opportunity to speak at the State of the Schools breakfast.
“These celebrations keep teachers going,” MacMurray said.
MacMurray started her teaching career at Metuchen High School in New Jersey. She went on to teach at a high school in Pennsylvania before moving to Hilton Head. She taught for eight years at Hilton Head Island Middle School, and is in her fifth year teaching at Hilton Head High.
“I absolutely love what I do,” MacMurray said. “My role as teacher gives me the opportunity to work with many talented educators. We share the mission to help students become the best individuals that they can be. Our students are diverse, and they represent our future.”
She said she loves the “Aha” moments when students finally understand a difficult concept. Those are the moments when she realizes she has made a difference in the lives of students and has helped them see their potential.
When a student asks her for help with something or comes back to visit after graduation, MacMurray knows for sure that she was meant to be a teacher.
“Teaching is hard work, but it is good work, and overall, I have to say it is really important work,” MacMurray said. “We need good teachers, and we need the support of our communities and businesses because we must work together for our children, who are our students and our future.”