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Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Faculty Spotlight: Anne Murphy

This month, we had the opportunity to sit down with beloved math faculty member Anne Murphy, who has been at Walnut Hill for over four decades—longer than any other current employee. Read on below for Anne's perspective on her Walnut Hill experience!

 

How did you first end up at Walnut Hill all those years ago, and did you anticipate you were here to stay?

In the fall of 1978, I was at home with my one-year-old daughter, playing on the floor in our living room. The phone rang and the caller told me his name was Arnold Taylor and he was from the Walnut Hill School. I had never heard of this school, but continued to listen. He told me that he had obtained my name and resume from Natick Public Schools. I had put my résumé in at the local school system when I first moved to Natick in 1974; however, I ended up working for an insurance company shortly after that move. Arnold asked me if I was available to teach one class that fall, as they were short-staffed. I told him I was at home with a one-year-old and was pregnant with a second child. He replied, “No problem! We have lots of babysitters here on campus who would love to help out.” He asked me to visit the School and so I did. I was offered the job that day, and, since I missed teaching so much, I accepted and started the position shortly thereafter. In the spring, my son was born (conveniently over March break), and I returned to school after the break. In April, I was then asked to pick up a second section of math for the remainder of the year. At the end of that first academic year, Stephanie Perrin, who was Academic Dean at the time, asked if I would be interested in returning the following fall if they needed me. I said, “Sure, just let me know!” In August, Stephanie called and asked me to come back full-time, and the rest is history. I had NO idea that I would teach at Walnut Hill this long, having assumed I would go back to public education where I had begun my career.

 

How has your department, and the School in general, changed during your time here? What has stayed the same?

I was appointed Math and Science Department Head in the fall of 1985. The following year, I requested to lead the Math Department only, as I did not feel my background in science was solid enough to be a fully effective leader of that department.  The next year, I was named the Head of the Math Department and served in this capacity for the next 30 years. I decided to return to school part-time to get my master’s degree the following year, and in doing so I was fortunate to connect with other math teachers from all over Massachusetts. This was a great opportunity for me to discuss and evaluate a variety of courses and programs from a range of high school settings. Walnut Hill entrusted me with much autonomy as department head, so I was able to implement curriculum and programs to meet the needs of the changing school population. I also became more aware of the emerging technology utilized in math instruction, and I was very excited about incorporating this resource in my classroom, as well as throughout the department. Walnut Hill invested in my vision by supporting travel to technology workshops and conferences all over the country during the next 20-plus years, and I remain so grateful for their support in this endeavor.

The School continued to grow by adding students with various artistic talents, and I came to more fully appreciate the students’ work outside of my classroom. During my prior academic school teaching, I only knew students for their work in my discipline. Here, I was able to observe these amazing young people in a variety of arts areas, and my awe and admiration for each and every student was elevated to a level I had not previously experienced.

Certainly, each new art brought in a different type of learner, and the School needed to change to accommodate the various students. There were new buildings, classrooms, majors, performances, and opportunities for me to become more closely involved in each student’s life. I loved it! What has remained the same is the level of determination, passion, dedication, and talent that is not often found in people of this age. The students were just so happy to be at Walnut Hill—and that made my job even more enjoyable.

 

What is your favorite memory or experience from your years spent teaching here?

I have experienced way too many wonderful events during my tenure at Walnut Hill to single out any particular one. From attending a fabulous piano performance at Jordan Hall from Hae Sun Paik in the early ’80s, and numerous others at that venue ever since, to the performances in New York at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, and, most recently, the Joyce Theater, it is challenging to find a single experience that outshines the rest. The visual artists, writers, composers, and those others who are not onstage also have been so inspiring. I am continually overwhelmed by these students, whether the performance is on campus or at some other fabulous location. I have a deep respect for every young person who is willing to dedicate themselves to the discipline and hard work required to fulfil their goals.

I do have a vivid memory of one student whom I taught all four years that stands out a bit, however. She arrived in the ’90s as a young freshman theater major who needed attention because she struggled a bit in math. We worked together and had a good relationship over the next four years. When she was a senior, enrolled in my Calculus class (certainly something neither of us would have predicted during that first class), we were working together as she reviewed for an upcoming test. The way she spoke about the calculus work we were doing and explained the problem-solving process with such great ease and understanding was so incredible that I found myself full of tears of joy and pride. She had accomplished so much in math, along with her successful work in the arts. This student had certainly matured into a terrific young woman, and I was so lucky to have shared in her growth.

I also have many important friendships with past and present faculty and staff as a result of our common experiences and enthusiasm for this school. I am so grateful that I took a chance in responding to that phone call almost 42 years ago. It has had much more of an impact on my life than I ever could have anticipated. Walnut Hill is truly a very special place and will remain in my heart forever—I certainly have benefited so much from being a part of this unique, wonderful school.

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