Surprises are always sweeter when shared with family.
So when two Furman alumni were recently added to Greenville County’s teaching honor roll, their schools’ principals (who are also brother and sister) were able to make sure the two teachers (who are mother and daughter) could share in the excitement.
Cam McDade ‘80, a 33-year teaching veteran, was recently chosen by Greenville County Schools as the 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year at Fork Shoals School.
Her daughter, Jennifer Murphy ’06 (MA ’08), was chosen as Robert E. Cashion Elementary School’s 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year.
After learning about the award from her principal, Ryan Streetman, Murphy drove over to Fork Shoals School to tell her mom the thrilling news.
Fork Shoals Principal Kim (Streetman) Reid jumped in and paged McDade over the loudspeaker. Amidst squeals, jumping, smiles and laughter, the mother and daughter were able to celebrate the moment together.
For this family of Furman alumni, a tradition of teaching excellence has been established.
Murphy’s husband, Jeremy ’06, then a social studies teacher at Greer High School, was chosen as the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year at Greer High School. He now serves as an administrator at Sterling School in Greenville.
Jennifer Murphy was also chosen as a top 10 finalist for 2016-2017 Greenville County Teacher of the Year honors. Her principal, Ryan Streetman, also arranged for McDade to be there when the news was announced to the school. Murphy received the prestigious National Board Certification in 2011 and was chosen as 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year at Bethel Elementary School in Greenville.
Murphy began spending time in the classroom at an early age. As an elementary school student, she was her mom’s helper, arranging chairs or decorating bulletin boards.
As a teenager, she was interested in either a career in law or in teaching. After a job shadowing day with a lawyer in high school, she decided to pursue a teaching career.
It’s a choice she’s never regretted.
During her years at Furman, Murphy took classes with Education Professor Judy Stuart and Education Professor Emerita Lesley Quast who taught her to advocate for meeting the needs of every student. As a graduate student, Education Professor Emerita Shirley Ritter taught her a wide range of teaching techniques to accommodate special education students’ diverse range of needs.
In her current position as a reading interventionist, Murphy works with dozens of first graders through fourth graders.
“I get to read with students in small groups every day. I work to connect the books to children’s lives,” she said. “Above all, I want to help them to love reading.”
For McDade, a native of Union, S.C., the choice to attend Furman was a given. It was the school her parents and a grandparent attended. The decision to teach wasn’t as clear, at least at first.
“I started out as a scared freshman,” McDade said. “Soon I learned I could do many things I didn’t think I could.”
During the summer before her sophomore year, she participated in a four-week program for students with autism in North Carolina. Then something just clicked.
“I wanted to be a classroom teacher who could think outside the box and help students work from their strengths to figure things out,” said McDade, whose husband is Furman alumnus Tony McDade ’80. “Furman prepared me for that. When you graduate, you’re not afraid of a challenge.”
Since Furman, McDade has taught special education in several school districts in North and South Carolina. More than three decades later, she still enjoys coming to work each day.
Unexpected compliments are treasured. One day, a second-grader spoke up and said, “I like this class. We have fun learning in here.”
McDade’s greatest reward hasn’t changed either. She loves seeing a student with a big smile on his or her face because they’ve solved a problem or mastered a concept.
“It just makes me so happy,” said McDade. “I consider myself to be fortunate to have spent so many years working with children.”