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View From Vis: Meet Math Teacher Ms. Murray

Ms. Melissa Murray teaches Upper School Math here at Vis and is featured in Visitation's Virtual Visit Video. Let’s get to know her a little better!

Ms. Murray graduated from Vis in 2003 and earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education with a focus in science education from the University of Minnesota. This past summer, she earned AP certification for her Calculus BC course and EFFL (Experience First Formalize Later) certification for all three courses she teaches (Algebra I, Algebra II, and AP Calculus). 

1. As a Vis alum, what drew you back here to teach?

Vis is home! Once I knew that I wanted to teach Math and Science, I hoped that someday I'd end up teaching at a school like Vis. My dream came true! I get to spend my time sharing my passion for discovering the secrets of the universe through Applied Mathematics--what could be better? Oh, getting to do all that with students who truly want to learn in a community where we all support each other. Best job ever!

2. How does Vis support girls in STEM?

Visitation students have so many opportunities to experience and pursue STEM both inside and outside the classroom! 

In class, we focus on building the skills needed to apply math. That means we might do some traditional textbook-style problems, but we take those skills and apply them to real-world problems:

  • Learning about exponent propertiesUse them to calculate population density from real statistics in scientific notation! (Ninth Grade Algebra)
  • Learning about systems of linear equationsUse them to model manufacturing constraints in order to optimize a profit function! (Algebra II)
  • Learning about Law of Cosines & vectorsUse them to balance the tension & compression forces at work in the trusses of a bridge! (Pre-Calculus)

Taking our studies into the realm of application prepares our students to use their math skills in all their other classes: Science, Social Studies, Music, Fine Arts, and more! 

Outside of class, our students have a rainbow of opportunities to pursue their passions in STEM: 

  • I help coach our Math Team, which competes in a state-wide competition spanning 5 months or more of practices and meets. The Math Team happens to be a joint team with St. Thomas Academy, so our students have the opportunity to collaborate with the Cadets, sharing strategies and perspectives.
  • Just last year, a student started an Investment Club where students compete in The Stock Market Game: An online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students in the world of economics, investing, and personal finance.
  • While I've been a coach/advisor for both the above activities, I might be most passionate about our robotics team: The Robettes
    • The Robettes compete in the FIRST® Robotics Competition. Under strict rules and limited time and resources, teams of high school students are challenged to build industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game in alliance with other teams, while also fundraising to meet their goals, designing a team “brand,” and advancing respect and appreciation for STEM within the local community.  
    • Our Robettes are highly decorated, earning seats at the world competition as well as the organization's highest honor for outreach and community involvement.  
    • Our students work alongside adult engineers to design, build, wire, code, and test a new robot each year. Many of our adult mentors are even Vis alumnae whom I taught when they were students! The Robettes robotics team is an incredible treasure of real-life experience for our students.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is the "lightbulb" look on a student's face when she just connected two threads in the web of her understanding. Math can be confusing, but it's all worth it when the pieces fall into place and a student gains insight into the inner workings of our universe. For me, math is a doorway that lets us peek at how everything around us works together--how God designed Creation, if you will. Whether students connect math to their spirituality or not, helping them get a glimpse behind the curtain of our universe is my raison d'etre. 

4. Lightning Round! What is your favorite…

Book you read this past year?
The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

Show to binge-watch?
The Great British Baking Show

Kind of math problem to solve?
Anything with 𝜋 in it!  Long story... I'll tell you on 𝜋 day ;)

Activity to do in your free time?
STEAM (STEM + Arts) projects with my kiddos, hiking in the woods with my puppy, or cooking with my husband

Vis memory?
Ooooh, that's a tough one. There are so many. It might be graduation, with its beautiful traditions ... or maybe Senior Retreat where our class bonded more than ever before ... ballet with Mr. Andahazy ... the very first day of high school when I met some of the best friends of my life by asking my locker neighbors awkwardly, "Hey, want to sit together at lunch?" at 7:45 in the morning ... I can't choose!

Wait, do I get to include memories from my teaching years, too? Ahhh! Overload! 

Thank you to Ms. Murray for sharing her thoughts. She makes us so #visproud!