The Murphy family loves education and teaching the children of Owensboro and Daviess County. Currently, four Murphy women are all employed in the local school systems.
Monica Rice said before the Murphy kids went to school, their mother, a stay-at-home mom with four children taught the children all day. Later, she worked for 25 years in the Daviess County Public Schools before retiring.
“She laid the foundation for the importance of learning when we were in diapers — doing puzzles, reading books to us, singing educational songs,” Rice said. “She truly was our first teacher.”
Tera Barnard, 38, is currently a fourth-grade teacher at East View Elementary School but has taught most elementary grades for more than her 16 years of teaching, including one year as a staff developer.
Barnard said she was not originally an education major, but while in the education building for a business class during college, she noticed the bulletin boards that were showcasing what education majors were studying.
“I immediately knew I had finally found my calling,” Barnard said. “It felt like home.”
Rice, 35, said she knew from childhood she wanted to be an educator.
“It was innate,” Rice said. “Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing pretend teacher.”
Rice is currently the College and Career Coach for OPS. She also taught English at OHS and was the department chair.
Gabrielle Hart, 32, is a school counselor at Owensboro High School and has held teaching positions at Henderson County High School, Owensboro Middle School and Owensboro High School. She has coached both basketball and golf for Owensboro Public Schools, and she also assists in the district counselor meetings and serves on two state education committees.
Hart’s love of Spanish is what made her want to go into education.
“I fell in love with the culture and language and wanted to share that with students,” Hart said.
When Hart was traveling between OMS and OHS to teach Spanish, Rice volunteered to let Hart use her room at OHS while Rice was on her planning period.
“The students loved it. I always had something to say,” Rice said. “Big sister couldn’t refrain from putting in my opinion, but it was cool to see how great of a teacher she was.”
Now Hart and Rice work in the same office at OHS, and although both said they don’t see each other daily because of their busy schedules, Rice said enjoys when they work together with a student.
Mackenzie Murphy married into the Murphy family and currently teaches at Apollo as a science teacher.
Murphy, 34, originally planned to become a physical therapist, but she said that it was her love of coaching softball and volleyball, while taking biology and chemistry classes that prompted her to combine her interests into an education degree.
“I knew as a teacher and a coach I could apply my education, work with young athletes, and have a favorable schedule to accommodate having a large family that I always wanted,” Murphy said.
Influenced by great coaches and teachers, along with her family, Murphy was encouraged to pursue coaching and teaching.
The Murphy sisters agree that education has always been a family value, and they have always felt supported. Barnard said that growing up, their parents stressed the importance of getting an education.
“Our parents sacrificed to be sure we were involved in extracurriculars and sports so that we could have the best educational experience,” Rice said. “Dad did homework with us, attended every parent-teacher conference and studied with us. Neither of our parents went to college. Dad is a factory worker, but he would have made a fantastic teacher. He missed his calling on that.”
Barnard said when the women get together, they are able to talk about the struggles and triumphs of being an educator.
“It’s wonderful to have a sister to call who truly understands what it’s like,” Barnard said.
All of the sisters agree that even though they don’t try to talk about school, conversations gravitate toward it when they are together.
“We all know what it’s like to work in a classroom, to work with students, to work hours that go unnoticed, to work for situations that break your heart, and we all know that you have to have someone to talk to about it all,” Hart said. “We are always there for each other, no matter what.”
All of the women have been influenced by their parents, other educators and family members, including their husbands who, Rice said, always tells her to do what needs to be done and he will support it.
Along with Terry Murphy retiring from DCPS, Barnard’s mother-in-law, Nancy Barnard, and Hart’s mother-in-law, Barbara Hart, retired from DCPS.
Hart said that she is influenced daily by her motto that if every day, she is doing what is best for the students and giving all that she has, that is what matters most. She hopes to be remembered as someone students could always come to, and she takes pride in making herself available to students.
“I love being a counselor and I hope that [when I retire], I am still counseling and promoting and advocating for counselors in the schools,” Hart said.
Barnard plans to stay in the classroom as she said it is a demanding career.
“When my students are grown-ups and think back on their elementary days, I want them to remember how much I loved them,” Barnard said.