Third grade teacher Beth Murray has been serving Dawson County Schools for 14 years; long enough to watch three of her classes graduate high school.
"I started teaching in 1999 for Dawson County after I was a student teacher. I really love it here," she said last week.
Murray, 35, was named Riverview Elementary School's 2012-13 Teacher of the Year in mid-August for being "passionate, sincere and one of the hardest workers you will find," according to principal Julia Mashburn.
"Beth Murray is about improving the lives of children. Beth will do whatever it takes to work toward that goal. Whether it is volunteering for worthy causes, giving of her time to sponsor an event, networking with families [and] former students, attending the special events [and] competitions of her students, managing the after school program, leading a community effort or teaching her third graders... she is making a difference daily in the lives of our students, staff and families," Mashburn said.
Murray said she was "very shocked and excited" to receive the accolade.
"I am thrilled to represent this great school," she said.
Murray first taught at Robinson Elementary for 11 years, leaving once she was asked to help start-up Riverview. She has now been at the county's newest elementary school for three years.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity to begin a new school and get my feet wet in the opening process," she said.
Murray, who received her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from North Georgia College & State University, later went on to receive her masters and specialist degrees through Piedmont College.
She said through it all she has continued teaching third graders because "they are independent, yet they still want to be around the teacher."
"I like the fact that they really start to use their basic skills to pursue other opportunities," she said. "It seems it all comes together for them in third grade and we can push them further. Things click and they have new ideas, which help them learn to express themselves."
In third grade the students are learning about various topics, including multiplication, division, rocks, minerals, fossils, magnets, economics and the difference between nonfiction and fiction.
As a teacher, Murray said she wants her students to feel important and capable.
"I want them to know that they made a difference and that they're important to not just the boys and girls in the classrooms, but to themselves and me," she said.
"As a teacher I believe young people are important to the community. The question is what role they play and what can they give in the future."
Murray tries to keep in touch with her students after they move on from her classroom.
"I want them to remember that I believe in them when they leave here," she said.
Murray also assists with the 21st Century Learning Program after school.
Later this fall, Murray has the chance to be selected as the systemwide teacher of the year from among the 2012-13 teachers of the year at each of the local schools.
An external committee of administrators and teachers from neighboring counties will look at each of the nominated teachers and make a final selection.