March 6, 2023

Glenmuir chemistry teacher says love for students inspires her

article reposted by Chelsea


MAY PEN, Clarendon — Long before the video of her being serenaded by appreciative Glenmuir High School students created waves on social media, Tanya Murray had already left her mark.

She hadn’t planned on being a teacher but now she can think of no better way to shape the lives of the country’s youngsters.

After graduating from The University of the West Indies, Mona, with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and zoology, Murray’s dream was to pursue medicine and become a paediatrician. But destiny would have it that she shifted gear and ventured into a profession that was furthest from her thoughts. Twenty years later, she embraces teaching as her divine calling. She is known as Glenmuir High School’s passionate and praying chemistry teacher.

“I didn’t have any intention of teaching,” she said in a sit-down with the Jamaica Observer. “Med[icine], paediatrician, that was my goal but then I realised that I couldn’t deal with the blood, and I honestly drew people’s pain, so that was a no-no. Then I wondered, after leaving UWI, what I would do. I thought of doing interior designing because I like that kind of stuff.”

Murray even explored options to go overseas, but those doors did not open for her.

After sending out numerous job applications with no success, the Glenmuir alumna one day received a call from a fellow batchmate that changed her life. There was a short-term vacancy at her alma mater for a substitute teacher of biology.

“My bio teacher was on leave and God just left that job opening for me. She was on four months’ leave already, out of the eight, and there was nobody to take her place. So when my batchmate called me and I came up, because it’s my alma mater I did it. I only had four months from January to April. After that, I was supposed to leave, and God just worked it out that another biology teacher went on leave, educational wise, and she was supposed to come back in September. So I was supposed to leave in September, and then she extended the time to December. And the rest is history,” she said.

After the return of her former teacher and colleague, her former chemistry teacher then migrated. This then strategically positioned her to teach in the content area for which she has a deep passion.

“Chemistry is my love, and so the door opened for me to start teaching the chemistry. And then other teachers left, and then I became straight chemistry from fourth to sixth form.

As I said, I didn’t plan on becoming a teacher but I remember the science lab tech saying, ‘But Ms Murray, you love teaching.’ Mi seh, ‘No, mi nuh love nuh teaching but I love my students.’ I am sure of that because I have always been drawn to young people, ’cause even in church [I served as] youth president, teen coordinator. I am Sunday school teacher for the young people. Everything with young people is me; I am in the middle,” said Murray who is affiliated with the New Testament Church of God.

Her students witness first-hand her love and devotion to her vocation.

“They say, ‘But Ms Murray you teach with so much passion’. But outside of the teaching, I spend a lot of time with my students; they come to me with their problems. I sit down and I have to listen, and I counsel, and I pray, and I knew that’s where I’m supposed to be. That’s my calling, that’s my ministry — young people,” she told the Observer.

Her grade 11 students spoke of how their teacher has impacted them.

“Ms Murray is so much more than a teacher; she is almost like an at-school mother. The way that she cares for her students and ensures that not only are they doing their best in her subject, but also other subjects. She seeks to help students just to become better students and, by extension, better people by instilling within us good moral values and ethics and just showing us the way how to operate in life as we transition. So, I am very grateful for Miss Murray and all that she is to me,” said Laurel Williams.

Amelia Chin was also eager to share her views.

“I think Ms Murray is a kind-hearted woman who devotes her time to bettering her students; it’s not just academically but as a person and outside of school, and I am grateful. I had the opportunity to form this bond I formed with her. She is now not just my teacher; she is also a confidante at school for me,” she said.

Darrion McCook spoke of Murray’s much-appreciated strategy in helping her students prepare for exams.

“She is a really great teacher who cares about how well her students do in her exams, how they understand the topics. She makes sure that you understand. When we have exams, instead of leading us astray and telling us to study the entire topic and stuff, when she has her classes she lets us focus on certain areas that she knows might be a problem to us so we would get the correct practice that we need, so that we don’t fail or feel like we don’t know anything. She is a very good teacher and she cares for us,” he said.

As for fellow colleague Nicola Edwards, who is a teacher of English, she believes Murray “has a humanitarian approach to teaching; she does things for students freely so I am not surprised that they reciprocate”.

Despite not having any initial teaching-training qualification, Murray depended on the wisdom of her master teacher — Jesus — to guide her classes.

“The first thing we do before class begins, we pray, and then I have them recite a little thing that I came up with — or God gave it to me: ‘With the help of God, my parents, my teacher, and myself, I will get a grade one in chemistry with a straight-A profile, topping Glenmuir, Jamaica, and the Caribbean.’

“And they have to say that every class. I tell them: Even if you don’t believe it, say it, because there’s life and death in the power of the tongue. And the more you speak it, the more you will believe it,” she said with conviction.

She said she also consults God whenever she believes a topic is challenging for her students.

“Sometimes when I go to pray, I have to say, ‘God, if it’s a topic that I know they struggle with, give me the wisdom’. I didn’t have any diploma in education. I came straight from UWI so it’s just a gift that God has given me. God would tell me what to do,” noted the prayer warrior.

Murray is also a firm believer in second chances, and she is known to accept the lower-performing students.

“I believe in chances because I believe God has given me a lot of chances in my life, loved me unconditionally. I believe I must display that same kind of love to others — not only to my children,” she said. “When they come and ask me for the opportunity, I will give it to them. But I just want them to know that there has to be somebody willing to take the chance.”

Murray maintains a strong rapport with her students, and knows all their names from the first week of school.

“It’s good because it means that I value them,” she said.

Students are often surprised, she said, when she addresses them by name from so early in the semester, but from the smiles on their faces she knows they appreciate it.

“My rapport with students has always been good. I don’t have anything bad to say. It’s just a good rapport and I believe it’s because of the love and care. So if you treat them any and any way you’re going to see that coming out. But when you are there for them, then they will naturally gravitate,” she noted.

“I give God all the praise; I cannot take it for myself because I did not make myself. And the gifts that he chose to give me, I’m just happy that I am walking in them and using them to his glory. Once you are doing that, then it means whosoever you serve must benefit so I believe I am walking in my calling,” continued Murray.

Her commitment to teaching and improving lives sees her teaching six days per week, but in her limited leisure hours she likes going to the beach and travelling.

“I like road trips. My goal is to travel the world and see God’s creations because I just think it’s amazing,” she said.

The word amazing immediately conjures up a line from the Bruno Mars song, Just the way you are, that her students sang for her, “You’re amazing, just the way you are.”

“The inspiration really came from Garnet. Him always used to sing to whichever area or town that he was performing in. So he decided to write the song and call it Hello, Mama Africa,” Bell disclosed in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

He said the success of the Smile rhythm did a lot for his career.

“It gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing; it also gave me recognition outside of Jamaica. It helped my life as far as my growth in the music industry. As for Garnet, Hello, Mama Africa helped in his rise to fame as a well-acclaimed and loved singer,” he said.

Bell, who is originally from Mandeville, started Startrail Records in the late 1980s, working with Beres Hammond and Derrick Lara on the album Just A Vibe.

The label erupted in the early 1990s when there was a roots-reggae revival in Jamaica. Bell produced Anthony B’s Fire pon Rome and Raid The Barn, Lift up Your Head, as well as Create A Sound by Everton Blender and Holding Firm by Sizzla.

Garnet Silk, who was also from Manchester, died there in an explosion at his mother’s house in December 1994. He was 28.

Thirty years later, Hello, Mama Africa and other songs from the Smile project continue to enjoy radio rotation on the local airwaves and at retro parties.

“It’s a good feeling hearing your songs played after 30 years and you know how these songs came about. It feels good knowing that, after all these years, people are still appreciating it. When you make good music, people are going to listen to it generation after generation,” said Bell, who operates Pon Top Seafood Grill and Bar Restaurant at Westminster Road in the Corporate Area.

He is still into music production and is currently working with artistes such as Uton Green, Lymie Murray, Jigsy King, and Shanty B.

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