Stacy Murphy has a great sense of humor and has always had a deep passion for helping students in need. She enjoys laughing and especially likes making others laugh. She grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming with both of her parents. They are still married and live in Cheyenne today. Murphy grew up with five siblings that she loves to visit and take trips with. Murphy’s family often takes big trips with most of the family. Murphy’s kids, her parents, siblings and nieces and nephews attend. Now Murphy lives in Laramie, Wyoming with a family of her own. Because they live so close to Cheyenne, they get to visit Murphy’s parents quite often.

Murphy is a mom, teacher, counselor, a dog lover and a landlord. She rents out the apartment below her house. The tenants are usually college students at the University of Wyoming, but she has also rented to family members, close friends and other people passing through Laramie. There are many facets to Murphy’s personality. She loves to joke around and laugh, but she becomes serious about the safety and success of her students and children. She builds relationships with all the people she encounters, and they usually notice that she cares a lot about her students.

Murphy went to College at UW after graduating from high school in Cheyenne. She got a masters in mental health counseling and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. “I feel like I have always been drawn to this career path,” Murphy said. She never changed majors in college, in fact she felt like she knew what she wanted to do for a career throughout high school. She worked hard and stubbornly in order to be able to do the job she does today.

Her current job title is a special education counselor. In this job she gets to run the Connection Classroom at Laramie High School. The Connection Classroom is a class that provides students with a place to come to work on emotional regulation, organization and academic engagement skills. This class started out as a lunch group at the old LHS. Murphy was one of the main staff members that contributed to the creation of this support opportunity. Murphy believed that the school needed this lunch group to be bigger and become a class. It has grown into a class with more staff that can offer class credit.

The Connection Classroom was developed by Stacy Murphy, Laura Niswender, Nancy Lockwood, Angy Hampton and other special ed staff. This class gives students a place to go to get support, help with academics, learn job skills and behavioral skills to use in many different settings. “This class is important for the school and the students because the school needed a way to help reduce the number of kids dropping out, help them get enough credits, help control behavior issues and provide a place for students in crisis,” Murphy said. This program could also potentially benefit the safety of the students in the class and the students outside of it.

Administrates were supportive of the group becoming an offered class at LHS, because they saw the need that Murphy saw. This class started out as one social studies class as soon as they found a classroom space that could be given to Murphy and other Special Ed staff. Getting a classroom was a big challenge because the school already offered so many different classes. In the beginning this classroom also offered the identified students in the school an open supported study hall, a place to take a break to benefit mental health when needed, and a place for students in crisis to come and get help. Over years the program slowly developed more classes that could offer students credits. Murphy was persistent in the push to strengthen and grow this program, because she strongly believes that it could help a lot of students. “Debbie Bastian and I then went through the school board to get an emotional regulation credit baring class added the second year, which was approved,” Murphy explained. Now an academic intervention class, a restorative justice class and their own physical education class taught by one of the school’s gym teachers are all offered for credit. Three years ago, an intensive or self-contained classroom was created outside of the connection classroom for students in need of a greater and more private support.

Murphy believes that the hardest part of her job is figuring out different needs of each individual student and how to make education as relevant to students as possible. Sometimes it is hard to get students to engage in a topic that they don’t believe will be useful or will benefit them in life outside of school. Murphy and her coworkers must try and convince their students of the importance of what they are learning and how those skills will help in the work force after high school. The students must learn life lessons and the connection classroom’s teachers are there to help support the students while learning these lessons.

Sometimes students in this program need a little more support in the form of a Para. The Paras are usually put in a class where they can help multiple students. The Paras don’t typically sit with only one student for the whole day or even a class period. The Paras aren’t typically needed on that heavy of a basis, but they are there to support and help students when needed. “The reason for this is to create independence as much as possible, and to avoid stigmatizing the students in front of their peers,” Murphy explained.

The connection classroom uses many benchmarks to ensure that the class is benefitting the students, and if it is not they change the interventions to better target the individual’s needs. They keep specific data on all the students enrolled, and they identify student’s success and growth individually. The Connection counselors make observations on academic engagement, grades and timeliness of assignments weekly or daily depending on the student’s advancement and needs. Progress reports are made quarterly to showcase improvements on the students’ academic and behavioral goals. The Connections staff have weekly meetings to discuss students’ levels of progress and what needs to change to further the success of the students. The students also have incentive rewards, and the frequency of these depend on how the students react with them. If the students have passing grades and no behavior write ups for an allotted time, then they can earn a field trip that takes place on every other Wednesday.

Students end goal in the program is to successfully access education individually. The long-term goal is for the program to have helped them be better and more successful members in the community. Murphy wants her students to be able to hold jobs, follow their dreams and have positive relationships.

Murphy was influenced by her parents growing up to follow the career path she has today. Her parents regularly helped many students who were struggling at school or at home. The support system she learned growing up from her parents and the relationship between her siblings greatly affects the way she teaches at school and the way she parents. She values relationships and the way people use their opportunities for support to benefit themselves and others. Her parents provided a very similar support and connection with students that Murphy provides today. Murphy also has other influences and reminders in her daily life. “Students and families that I work with at school are constantly inspiring me to help them be successful in society,” Murphy said. Murphy also knew several kids in high school that could have benefited from a class like this. She likes her job because it gives her a constant opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives, and hopefully help them be as successful as possible.

Murphy says that her work is a great accomplishment, but she is the proudest of her three daughters. She strives to make positive environments that make people comfortable and allow them to grow while feeling supported. She loves watching her children learn and grow into the people that they are. Murphy wants the best for her children. She worries about them, but she also has a strong trusting relationship with her children. She has given them the best opportunities that she can, and she will continue to do so. Her children’s successes in academics is a good representation of what she wants to help the students in her program achieve. Her kids show a respectful amount of dedication to their education. She wants her students to be resourceful while being able to independently work through problems.

When Murphy is not working, she likes to golf, go to the lake and travel. In the future she hopes she can travel more and continue to support students who struggle. She hopes that the Connections classroom will continue to grow, improve and add ways it can reach and help individual students.