Educator Jason Murray is modeling the same mentorship he received as a child

'Teaching doesn't stop when the bell rings'

Jason Murray’s days in elementary school often started bright and early. He would get up, get his clothes ready and eat breakfast in the school cafeteria underneath dimmed, flickering lights.  

“I really enjoyed all my years of school,” he says. “They were just overwhelmingly filled with love.”

It was at school that Murray felt cared for and valued, which wasn’t always true at home. He remembers accidentally calling his teachers “mom” frequently. He gained a deep appreciation for the mentors who impacted him throughout his education journey. 

In fifth grade, Murray began playing basketball, which changed his life. Each time his team won, his coach would buy the team doughnuts at the concession stand, encouraging them to try their best by building community.

He continued playing through high school, and in his sophomore year his humanities teacher invited him to play basketball outside of class.

“He really made a connection, both as a friend and mentor,” Murray says. “I really want to thank him for changing my life. He knew what was going on, and he taught me that teaching doesn’t have to stop when the bell rings.” 

Such examples of mentorship inspired Murray to become a teacher. “I wanted to do that for other kids,” he says. 

Jason Murray waves to kids in graduation regalia

Supporting the whole person

After high school, he started college but struggled to find financial stability. He transferred to a community college to focus on working while completing his lower-level courses, then searched for teaching programs in the area. A friend recommended George Fox, and Murray was sold on the program’s online format and flexible scheduling. 

At the same time, he met his wife, also a teacher. “She kept me motivated and kept me going,” he says. “She held me accountable and always reminded me of my goals and why I wanted to do it.”

Soon after, Murray enrolled in the Online Accelerated Teaching Degree program at George Fox. It was there, again, that he found a mentor who fostered his growth: Saurra Heide, an associate professor of education.

“Her wisdom shines,” Murray says. “She’s well-spoken, and she’s a really great leader to have.” 

As part of her role as a mentor, Heide worked with Murray on his application for his current position as an educational assistant and substitute teacher at Hollydale Elementary School in Gresham, Oregon.

With a family to support, Murray had concerns about working without pay while student-teaching, so together with his wife, he focused on opportunities that would allow him to earn an income while completing his student-teaching hours.

The mentorship and guidance he received at George Fox affirmed his direction, mirroring his experience as a child. In his current teaching role, he uses the skills he learned in class to “support and look at the whole child,” he says. 

'Art of being a teacher'

“The educational classes I took at George Fox were geared for this teaching type – the art of being a teacher.” Among the topics covered were learning about children’s development, cognitive functions, approaches to time management, and more. 

One method Murray has leaned into is creating student data tables. These rosters paint a fuller picture of students, including not just their grades, but their interests, languages, home life, socioeconomic factors, and more. 

“When you first meet a kid and you build those relationships, you’re going to learn that,” Murray says. “But to record it and be cognizant of it every day is something that really stuck out to me about the program.” 

The information helps Murray build rapport with students, which is his favorite part of the job. Now, he has the opportunity to support students as he was supported in school. 

In addition to teaching, he coaches middle school JV basketball, allowing him to build connections with students outside the classroom while teaching them to lose with grace and win with humility.

In all of his positions, he hopes to encourage a culture of learning and growth for students by supporting them as a teacher and mentor. 

“I come at it kind of like a big brother,” he says. “I’m looking out for them.” 

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