August 2018 Issue
By Mary Hope Roseneau
Photography by Christian Lee
Melissa Murray is a #smartypants, for sure! She’s a busy, young, professional educator enjoying a few precious days of vacation this summer with her husband and 5-year-old twins, Genevieve and Josephine. She has many projects going on in her mind, and excitedly talked with me about them.
She and her husband, Stephen, are leaving very soon to a friend’s destination wedding in Botswana! She is busy arranging the two sets of grandparents to tag-team babysit and keep the twins busy while they are gone. She admits to some “mommy guilt,” but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Africa.
Melissa and Stephen have been married 14 years, and they’ve accomplished a lot! They met on Hilton Head Island, where Melissa is from (an actual native!), and spent their first years together in Florida. Stephen had started his famous kazoo factory, Kazoobie Kazoos, and Melissa began teaching elementary school. They also started a supplemental educational services company while there, but before long felt the pull back to the Lowcountry. Melissa earned a Master’s degree in literacy in Florida, and has added a second one from the Citadel in educational administration.
Stephen was busy too, successfully running for Beaufort City Council, and starting another business, New South T-shirts. Melissa said at first they both worked during the day and stayed up till 2:00 a.m. making t-shirts.
Finally, to the in-laws great relief, Melissa and Stephen started their family. Twins were a delightful surprise, and both girls are eagerly entering kindergarten in August at Riverview Charter School.
Oh yes, one more activity! The Murray’s are house flippers. They have successfully bought and sold several fixer upper houses, remodeling them one room at a time. Melissa’s dad has a background in construction, so he is a valuable resource, but Melissa enjoys the research and informational reading she does when tackling a new project.
“Joyful reading” is a term Melissa uses frequently in her position as English/Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator for the Beaufort County School District. She supports all the literacy instruction from PreK to grade 12, providing professional development and liaison with community groups such as the Pat Conroy Literary Center and the United Way Education Oversight Committee. She is the past chair, and current board member for the Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA).
“Joyful reading” is what one does just for fun and enjoyment,” Melissa says. It can be fiction or nonfiction, and Melissa reads both. For the rehabbing of the old houses, she taught herself the techniques and terms of house restoration and interior design. She varies that with light, “chick-lit” reading just to relax, and encourages teachers she works with to explore all these genres and more with their students
Working with her own two children, Melissa and Stephen are committed to “setting them up for success.” Before a new experience, such as going to the dentist, or being flower girls, Melissa finds books and magazines that illustrate the new concepts, reads them to and with the girls, and they rehearse or “play act” what will happen ahead of time. The girls enjoy their experiences so much more, she says, and it’s just plain fun. They also help with the family garden, including the planting, maintaining, and picking the harvest. They also help to cook the fruits and vegetables for dinner. “Throughout the process, they are learning, but they think it’s just fun!”
Stephen’s two businesses, and city council meetings take up quite a bit of his time, but Melissa is a studious scheduler and organizer. The couple commit to each other to limit outside activities that will take them away from the family, and sync up their Outlook calendars so they both know what is next on the agenda. The two parents divide the carpooling duty. Stephen does the morning route; Melissa picks up in the afternoon.
One last thought Melissa shared with me, as an educator as well as a mom: “I embrace learning something new myself, and I always have to read to learn how to do it. Teach children that reading is fun and important, because they can learn new things on their own!”
Melissa’s top tips for a great school year:
• Meal prep for the upcoming week over the whole weekend. Plan, shop, and chop the ingredients for all meals in advance. Saves on the stress in the mornings!
• Just do the very best you can! We can’t be perfect, but we can learn from our mistakes, and try to do better the next day.
• Make learning purposeful for kids, but more importantly, make it fun!