Mike Murphy serves as the ELA/Humanities teacher at The Welsh Academy. He is an alumnus of Saint Ignatius High School from the Class of 2009. As a student at Saint Ignatius, he played football and was very active in the Christian Action Team. Theology was one of his favorite subjects and he credits that to teachers like Tom Healey '77, Drew Vilinsky '97, and the late Jim Skerl '74.
Murphy received his bachelor's degree from Catholic University where he developed a desire to become a teacher. After graduation he enrolled in The University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education program and taught fifth grade in Fort Worth, Texas. Murphy's vocation as a teacher has only grown since that experience. He spent the last five years in Boston teaching English at their Nativity school, one with a similar mission to that of The Welsh Academy.
When the opportunity arose to join the founding team at The Welsh Academy, Murphy was eager to be part of what was happening at his Alma Mater. He began as the English/Language Arts and Humanities teacher in August 2019.
"Mike is able to get the most out of students, who enjoy his offbeat humor and classroom environment," Dan Dixon, S.J. says. "Mike loves to read and always has books available to recommend to the boys. He believes his students should see themselves in the authors and characters that they read, and makes an effort to be culturally responsive in his pedagogy."
Murphy and his wife Grace are happy to be back in Cleveland and enjoy attending Saint Ignatius sporting events and the monthly Taize prayer service. We got to know more about Murphy and his experience at The Welsh Academy so far in a recent Q&A:
Q. How does it feel to be back in Cleveland and a part of something new at your Alma Mater?
Q. What has been the biggest lesson you have taken away from being part of a school in its founding year?
Coming back to Cleveland to be a part of The Welsh Academy is a dream come true. In Boston, I was working at a Jesuit middle school for boys of modest economic means. I saw firsthand how a Jesuit education could change the educational trajectory of a student and I believed the families of Cleveland deserved such a school. I was claiming to have had this idea first, but then I heard Fr. Welsh, S.J. '54 was trying to do it in the 90s. Being able to come back to Cleveland and be connected to Saint Ignatius is better than I could have imagined. My time at Saint Ignatius is what set me on the path to becoming a teacher. Throughout my teaching career, I have referenced Saint Ignatius as where I learned to be an authentic teacher with a focus on cura personalis (care of the whole person). That charism is clearly present at Ignatius and is something I have worked to incorporate into my own teaching style.
Q. How have The Welsh Academy students impacted your life in these first few months?
Get the right people on the bus. The Welsh Academy staff bring significant experience to the work, along with a great energy. I've seen other schools try to do this first year with a bare bones staff and burn out before the school is even full. We have a solid staff already which allows us to work on making the school great now, while also planning 2-3 years ahead. The people I work with are amazing and I can't imagine better people being in those roles.
Q. Has there been one moment that sticks out to you as a highlight so far?
I've really had to brush up on my Spanish. I've taught students who speak a language (or languages!) other than English at home. However, these students at The Welsh Academy have been the most interested I've seen in sharing their Spanish and leveraging that skill as a strength. The Spanish-speaking students are unusually patient with me as I stumble through basic Spanish phrases in my attempts to connect. They have also enjoyed exploring the differences between Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and El Salvadoran Spanish.
Q. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to the growth of The Welsh Academy?
One of the best moments was when I mentioned how I love tamales to the class because it had come up in the story we were reading. The very next day, a student showed up with some tamales his mother had made and they were amazing. It was a great moment of a student listening and sharing in his own way. Also the tamales were delicious.
Q. What is your favorite book?
I really look forward to building a community of families around The Welsh Academy. Each year, that community will grow and the best part will be staying power. I think this will also be the challenge for us – how do we keep these families engaged as their sons go through Saint Ignatius and college and beyond? I want The Welsh Academy and Saint Ignatius to feel like home and making sure families stay connected will be a key part of that. Like Saint Ignatius, The Welsh Academy could be a place that sees siblings and cousins come through. Even now as I'm back at Saint Ignatius, I'm meeting cousins and siblings of guys I went to school with. There are some names that just resonate. I look forward to seeing that happen at The Welsh Academy.
A book I always go back to is Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He's also the author of The Little Prince. His reflections on humanity and experiences as a pilot are entrancing and always worth reflecting on. My favorite quote is, “To be a human is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one's comrades. It is to feel, when setting one's stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.”
Q. What do you and your wife Grace do for fun?
We love throwing a frisbee around and going to Cedar Point. It's hard to appreciate that in Cleveland you live next door to one of the most fun amusement parks around. We also spend a lot of time with family, who have been so welcoming to us as we've returned. My family is very close-knit, and my sister and I are the only ones who lived out of town. The next step is to get my sister to come in from Boston.
Q. Since you spent time living in Boston, we have to know...Boston or Cleveland sports fan?
Cleveland fan all the way. Boston fans have already had their time. I will say, no one in Boston is intimidated by a Cleveland fan. If anything, it's more pity. "That must be so hard." They can't even empathize.