Women's History Month: Teresa Murphy, breast cancer patient, wins Miami-Dade's Teacher of the Year

Posted at 4:54 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 17:12:25-05

March is National Women’s History Month, and we’ve been highlighting influential women in South Florida. Today, we are celebrating Teresa Murphy, a teacher who’s going above and beyond for her students even through cancer treatment.

After decades of teaching students in South Florida, Teresa was named the 2022 Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year.

“Doing what you love to do every day, and then getting rewarded for it, what’s better than that,” said Teresa.

The pandemic wasn’t the only challenge Murphy was facing during the e-learning school year. Months into the summer, Murphy was diagnosed with breast cancer in August.

“As my hair fell out, the children were not aware of that. They weren’t aware that I was sick until January,” said Teresa.

She used filters to disguise the chemo room from her students. The long chemo sessions didn’t stop her from teaching her third-grade students at Spanish Lake Elementary in Hialeah.

“If it was not going to be able to do this without giving them a very minimal amount of disruption, then it wouldn’t be fair for them and wouldn’t be for to my staff at my school if they had to constantly cover it. So it was a big decision to strategically make sure that this was something I was able to do,” said Teresa.

For Murphy, she saw teaching as an escape from her temporary reality.

“These students gave me so much energy and positivity. I didn’t have to think about the cancer. I only had to think about what I was doing every day in the classroom. It was like it didn’t exist,” said Teresa.

Described by school board members of MDCPS and former students, Murphy is more than just a teacher, she’s a warrior.

“I think it’s really strong and brave of her to keep doing this for her students,” said Ashley Noy.

Ashley Noy had Ms. Murphy as a fourth and fifth grade teacher. Now a sophomore in college, Ashley says her middle school teacher has always been one of her biggest inspirations.

“She is one of the reasons why I got into the medical field,” said Ashley.

As Teacher of the Year, Murphy hopes to inspire current and future teachers the way she was once inspired.

“No matter how bad your day is, there is something good that happened that day. It doesn’t happen how low you feel, there is something positive. We need to spend as much energy focusing on that as that negative energy may have brought us down,” said Teresa.

Murphy has touched hundreds, if not thousands, of lives throughout her career. In her three decades she has taught at 7 elementary schools. Now teaching at-risk third-graders at Spanish Lake Elementary.