Helena Magazine

Education Q&A – Mandy Murchison

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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English teacher at Helena High School

How long have you been with Helena High School?
This is my second year at Helena High School.

What do you love about teaching English?
English became a favorite subject for me when I saw the power of writing. For me, I love the aspect of giving students the tools to express themselves through written words and helping them see the value in the skill. English is constructed around speaking, listening, reading and writing which I feel naturally enables my students to have a voice and a creative space to learn. I think mostly I enjoy teaching it because I interact with the subject outside of school by reading and writing and I express my passion for it to my students.

How do you balance teaching English and also all of the other organizations you head?
I am the Head JV Cheerleading Coach, I sponsor Emerge Freshman Leaders Club, The Baking Club, and The Lettermen Club. Teaching students in the classroom has brought me so much joy, but there is also something special about watching a student be involved in something they are passionate about. I am able to form relationships through these organizations that help me better understand my students in the classroom, as well as students I do not have the opportunity to teach. To help with balancing it, I have learned that having a plan and taking preparation steps are key to not feeling constantly scattered. There are certainly days that I struggle to keep up with everything that needs to be done, but ultimately the reward of seeing our students grow in becoming better leaders is worth it.

How would you describe your approach to teaching?
My approach in the classroom models what feels most true to my students in each individual class period. I try to approach the academic content of our class with intentionality and express to students the importance and/or reasoning behind what they are learning because sometimes they struggle with seeing the big picture. I incorporate ways for them to creatively express their learning where possible because I believe, especially in 9th grade, that engagement is crucial and finding ways for them to learn in diverse ways is what will ultimately cultivate a positive learning experience for them.

What is a highlight for you as a teacher?
Although I have been at Helena for a short period of time, I have a large number of incredible memories. The one that stands out to me the most is Freshman Orientation which was hosted by Emerge and Peer Helpers. Our former Assistant Principal Jennifer Lowe spent countless hours sketching out what this experience would look like for our new students, and she was so intentional about every little detail. We both wanted their first encounter with our school to be one that they remember fondly but also information that would ease their stress and nerves for the first day of school.