Christian Teacher of the Year: Sarah Murphy finds her mission in the classroom, blending faith and learning with personal responsibility

When Sarah Murphy followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher, she assumed she would teach in a public school.

“I really thought my mission would be public,” Murphy told The…

When Sarah Murphy followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher, she assumed she would teach in a public school.

“I really thought my mission would be public,” Murphy told The Lion.

But when King’s Way Christian School in Vancouver, Washington had a 5th grade opening in 2010, she says, “I went.” And she’s taught there ever since.

King’s Way hired Murphy three days before school started, and quickly the new teacher learned she had an amazing mission there.

“God showed me there’s a big mission field here too,” Murphy told The Lion. “Once I got into the Christian school, I realized that just because I’m at a Christian school doesn’t mean these kids are all Christian. 

“I have a lot of kids come that just want a smaller school setting or their grandparents have them go. So, this is just as much a mission field, but I actually get to say God’s name and I get to pray, and I get to do more with them than I could in a public-school setting.” 

Murphy relishes the opportunity, blending faith and learning into daily classroom experiences to teach her students. 

“Teaching at a Christian school allows me to integrate God into all my lessons and help my students recognize His hand in the world around us,” she says.  

One way she helps students learn personal responsibility is by simulating a community where students have to engage in business and life-like situations. 

“I love it because it is an organization where kids learn how to literally be in a community,” she says of the program, called JA Biztown. “We teach them how to write checks. We teach them to balance their finances on paper. And then they actually get to apply for businesses and jobs. There’s everything from UPS, to working at Walmart, to working at a construction company. 

“And my favorite quote, still to this day, is a kid was like, ‘Now I know why my mom is so tired when she comes home.’” 

Murphy also works hard to develop relationships with her students so that they understand their value. 

“I think it’s important for kids to know they’re loved and valued,” Murphy said. “And then get into the education, because they’re not going to learn unless they know that.”  

Murphy greets all her students with a hug, high five or a handshake when they enter the classroom each morning.  

“I know when a student is having a bad morning and I’ll tell them they can come to me when they’re ready to talk about it, I think that helps them learn, to know they don’t have to come in perfect if they’re having a bad morning,” she says. “To know Mrs. Murphy is still going to hold them accountable but I can talk to her and get out what I need to and then learn what I need to.”  

In the tapestry of Murphy’s teaching career, threads of compassion, faith and dedication weave together, creating a nurturing and empowering educational experience for all her students. As she continues her mission of spreading God’s love, she leaves an indelible mark on the lives she touches. 

It’s why Murphy is among the 12 educators around the country to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion. 

“Anytime I have a kid come back and tell me, ‘I still remember when you did this’ – they’ll be in high school, or college and they’ll come back and visit – they tell me moments they were really struggling with something, but they remembered my devotions and it helped them get through what they were struggling with,” she says. 

“Those are my favorite moments.”  

The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will attend a special awards event in Washington, D.C., where they will also receive a monetary gift.