Union County Teacher Sees Third Generation of Students

Carolyn Murr

It’s not uncommon for a teacher to see two generations of students in his or her time in the classroom, but have you met a teacher who is on their third generation?

Union County Schools has one such teacher, Carolyn Murr, at Maynardville Elementary School. She’s seeing kids in her fourth grade class who are the grandkids of some of her previous students, and she’s not planning on retiring anytime soon.

Murr is a Powell native, and she still lives there. She graduated from Powell High School in 1965, attended the University of Tennessee majoring in physical education and health, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1968. After an intern position with Park Junior High in the old city of Knoxville school system, she took a job teaching physical education at Maynardville Elementary School in the fall of 1969.

Why teach PE? Murr said she’s always enjoyed physical activity. She played basketball in high school and coached basketball a year or two at Maynardville Elementary.

Back in 1969 at MES, which housed students first through eighth grade, PE was taught outdoors since there was no gymnasium. Things changed over the years. Eighth graders moved to the high school, kindergarten was added. In 1986, the school system stopped PE classes at MES, and Murr moved into the classroom to teach a self-contained fifth grade class.

In the 80s, she’d gone back to school for a masters degree and teacher certification. In 2011, she moved to teaching science to kindergarten through fifth grade. Today, Murr teaches fourth grade social studies and science. She likes the subjects because, in her words, “You can see the results. They either know it or they don’t.”

Murr enjoys watching students learn. She likes to teach them to listen, follow directions, and accept rewards or consequences. In her fourth grade class, a clipboard tracks behavior problems, and students lose privileges if their name gets recorded. If a student finishes the week with nothing on the clipboard, they get a treat.

The philosophy there is pretty straightforward. “Always do right,” she said. “Hopefully they’ve learned to follow directions and realize the consequences. Some are good, some are bad.”

And her favorite project of each year ties into that philosophy as well. Since 1986, the end-of-year project in Murr’s science classes has been to build model rockets, an undertaking that involves careful following of directions and a big pay-off for students who do it right.

“You have to follow directions and listen,” she said. “It’s something they want to do, so they pay attention.”

In her free time, Murr likes to read, and she likes to travel. It may surprise some of her students, but in addition to extensive travel in the continental U.S., Murr has visited Africa, England, Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Holy Land. She even went on a 10-football-field-length zipline in Honduras. Italy was the most recent and her favorite, as she traveled there with her sister’s family. She also made a point of traveling to view the full eclipse when it happened in Tennessee last fall.

About those grandkids of former students, Murr said it’s interesting to teach a third generation of students.

“Sometimes I call they by their grandparents’ names,” she said.

Many current teachers in Union County Public Schools had Murr for PE or in the classroom. In the Central Office, Supervisor of Federal Programs Ronnie Mincey and Supervisor of Secondary Education Susan Oaks both had Murr for PE at MES. Aaron Russell of HistoricUnionCounty.com was in one of Murr’s fifth grade classes. And anyone who attended MES between 1969 and 1985 had Murr for PE.

For future plans, Murr wants to keep teaching “as long as I feel good,” she said. “It’s always interesting to have new people come along to teach.”

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