Former teacher wants wall decoration for Christmas

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Doris Murray has an off-the-wall wish for Christmas this year.

Doris Murray has an off-the-wall wish for Christmas this year:

To be on the wall.

“I told my children and my grandchildren, ‘This is what I want for Christmas, kids.'”

Murray, 90, was a one-room schoolteacher in Nebraska for 17 years, starting in 1940. Recently, she heard that UNK, her alma mater, wanted to raise money for scholarships while honoring Nebraska’s rural educators like herself with plaques on a Wall of Honor.

People who donate $1,000 get a plaque engraved with their name on the wall – or the name of a rural teacher they’d like honored – along with the name of the school. The plaques will hang on that Wall of Honor inside UNK’s College of Education.

For Doris, who lives in Axtell, Neb., that plaque would honor all her memories.

Like the baseball games at recess, when she played umpire.

She laughs.

“Sometimes the kids didn’t like my calls.”

Like the shy bull snake who basked in the light of the basement window, but who did his part by eating up all the mice.

Like the piano music every morning and the art projects every Friday and all the learning that went on inside those walls.

Doris says the plaque wouldn’t just honor her. It would honor her students, too.

“Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful? And they deserve it. They worked so hard. They were all good little kids. I loved the naughty little boys and the sweet little girls.

“They’d do something and they’d look at me and see what I was going to do about it.”

Doris was mentioned in a story in October’s Campaign E-Newsletter announcing UNK’s scholarship effort – the One Room, One Teacher Scholarship Fund. (The program honors all rural Nebraska teachers, whether they taught in one-room schools or not. Honorees don’t have to be UNK grads.)

Since publicity for the project began in October, people have shown great interest in the Wall of Honor, says the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Tracy Lungrin, who is leading the fundraising effort.

“I’m still getting calls,” she says. “I’ve talked to about 40 people so far. I’m amazed. One former rural teacher sent me a poem she’d written. Another sent me his first contract from the district he taught in. Some have asked for more flyers so they can send them to their friends.

“And it’s been great to talk to everybody, because they’re really passionate about the project.”

Lungrin says she’s been surprised that so many of these rural teachers had family members who became teachers, too.

She says she’s hearing from families who are all contributing to buy a plaque.

She loves how Doris Murray has told her family about her Christmas wish for one.

“She really wants to be on that wall,” Tracy says. “Everybody just seems to have so much passion for this, so much pride. They’re all looking back and saying, ‘I can’t believe I did that – or my mom did that. I was so young and it was such a challenge, but I did it.’

“And they loved every minute of it.”

The dedication ceremony for the Wall of Honor will be on Sept. 20, 2013, at the College of Education building at UNK. If you want to secure a plaque for the ceremony, please make your gifts by June 1.

You can give online or contact the foundation’s Tracy Lungrin at 308-698-5278.

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