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3 Inspiring Stories Anyone With an Education Degree Should Read

Become a teacher and positively impact lives now and in the future.

Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers, connecting passionate and dedicated educators with open and eager minds. As with any profession, some days are filled with wonder and excitement while others can be more challenging for any number of reasons. Because educators everywhere have similar experiences, here are three inspiring stories from state teachers of the year to help motivate you when you need it most.

Beth Oswald is a 2008 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year and a Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate from Walden University. Oswald, who has been teaching at J.C. McKenna Middle School in Evansville, Wisconsin, since 1996, was nominated for her ability to “hook” all of her students into learning in the classroom, for her leadership in creating integrated units in all subject areas, and for spearheading service projects through student government. “I try to make personal contacts with kids,” says Oswald, who went to college as a nontraditional student after working for years a local grocery store. “They really do want to share things about themselves.”*

3 Inspiring Stories Anyone With an Education Degree Should Read

Many teachers’ successes, Oswald argues, can largely be credited to others. “As a social studies teacher, I’m more like a Roman than a Greek,” she says. “The Greeks came up with all these wonderful ideas and inventions, but when the Romans took over, they took all the ideas and theories and put them to use. I’ve always been good at looking at what other people are doing and thinking ‘Oh, I could use that in my class.’”

Oswald’s goal as a teacher is simple: “I get gifted kids, I get non-verbal kids, and I want each of them to leave the room knowing something more than they knew before they came in,” she says.

For Jennifer “Buffy” Murphy, the 2007 South Carolina Teacher of the Year and an EdD graduate from Walden, teaching wasn’t her first career choice. In college, Murphy first majored in nursing, but says she couldn't ignore the voice in her head that told her she should be a teacher. Murphy originally planned to become a pediatric nurse, but during an internship at a hospital in her junior year of college, she saw how easy it was to become attached to kids, and the chance of losing one to leukemia was too much for her to bear.

While exploring different parts of the hospital, she found the classroom. “I saw these kids come to life,” she says. “They forgot about being sick and attached to tubes. That’s when I realized I really wanted to be a teacher.” Murphy took the nurturing and caring attention she once thought she’d give to ailing children and transferred it to her students.

“Buffy’s greatest accomplishment in education is having a personal impact on young lives,” says State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum. “She knows her students, not only as learners, but also as individuals. Because she wants them to feel valued in the community, she validates each of them from the moment they enter her classroom, and they leave her room knowing that they can accomplish great things and make a difference.”

Like Murphy, Derek Olson, the 2008 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and an EdD graduate from Walden, had another career in mind. Planning a career in business, he volunteered at refugee orphanages in Thailand and Hong Kong. But after returning to the U.S., he was haunted by the images of the children he had left behind. That’s when he turned to teaching as a profession. “That really had a profound impact on me,” says Olson. “It wasn't something I realized when I was there, but once I got home, I knew that something needed to be done.”

Steve Bliven, a teacher who works closely with Olson and nominated him for the award, says that Olson “brings the classroom alive.” Olson reflected on those who think he's crazy for wanting to spend his life with 11-year-olds. “The beauty of it is, the job description of an 11-year-old is to act like an 11-year-old,” he says, explaining that the students don’t frustrate him because they’re doing what they are supposed to by challenging authority and developing their minds. “It is one of my greatest blessings that I love what I do every day. My greatest achievement will simply and always be every time I have the opportunity to impact the life of a child in a positive way.”

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online education degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*P. Cotant, Teaching the Whole World: This History Teacher Is Being Honored for Helping to Integrate the Middle-School Curriculum in Evansville, Wisconsin State Journal, on the internet at

†BMW Group Plant Spartanburg, S.C. Teacher of the Year To Travel in BMW Z4 Roadster, on the internet at

‡E. Johns, Derek Olson Named Teacher of the Year, Star Tribune, on the internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,