Faculty Focus: Virginia Murray
College of Education
Title: Special Education Faculty Lead
Years at GCU: 6 1/2
Academic degrees: B.A. Special Education, M.A. Special Education, ABD Ed.D. Organizational Leadership in Special Education
Faculty scholarship (publications, scholarly presentations, fellowships, etc.):
● Member of Council For Exceptional Children
● Member of Arizona’s PBIS Advisory Council
● Murray V. (2020, January). “Supporting the Development of Self-Determination Skills for Individuals with Autism.” Presentation at the 21st International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability and Developmental Disabilities, Sarasota, Fla.
● Murray, V. (2019, August). “Interventions and scaffolding in the online environment.” Presentation at EdKey Online Instructor Institute 2019, Mesa
● Murray, V. (2019, March). “Supporting students’ self-determination skills.” Presentation at the Arizona Council for Exceptional Children and Council of Administrators of Special Education 2019 Annual State Conference: Building Resilience, Phoenix
● Murray V., Blair, J., & Dyer, R. (2018). “Supporting students’ self-determination skills.” Presentation at the Arizona State Department of Education’s the Annual Director’s Institute, Litchfield Park
● Dyer, R., Blair, J. & Murray, V. (2018, August). “More than just a syllabus.” Presentation at the Arizona’s State Department of Education’s Annual Director’s Institute, Litchfield Park
● Murray, V. (2017, August). “How Can I Support the Development of Self-Determination Skills?” Presentation at the Arizona State Department of Education Annual Transition Conference, Scottsdale
● Murray, V. (2015). “Classroom management and behavior strategies”. Presentation at the Christian Educator’s Workshop in Phoenix
● Murray, V. (2015). “Engagement strategies to increase student achievement.” Presentation at the Future Educators of America Conference, Tucson
Notable research in your field: Self-determination, post-secondary transition, autism
Notable employment in your field:
I worked for 25 years in public special education as a teacher in pre-K through 12th grade, a lead teacher in preschool special education, a teacher mentor for a school district and a full-time faculty member at GCU. I have taught all grade levels and have had a couple of district leadership roles as well.
I retired from public schools and started teaching two days later at GCU. I have been here ever since. I love working with the staff and students here. I am glad I now work in an environment that allows me to more openly share my Christian worldview with others.
What are you most passionate about in your field?
I am passionate about preparing special education teacher candidates to use high leverage practices and help their students transition to post high school settings. It is important to help students develop self-management skills, self-awareness skills and self-determination skills. Preparing special education students for post-secondary education settings involves developing a post-secondary transition plan that prepares the student and family for life after high school. This plan involves a summary of each student’s interests, strengths, preferences and needs related to three areas: further education and training, employment and independent living skills.
It is important to understand eligibility and services that are available once special education students graduate from high school. Students and families need to prepare as early as the student’s freshman or sophomore year in high school. Many students with disabilities go to college, vocational/trade schools and secure employment if there has been preparation and support during the formative school years (grades K-12).
What aspect of your teaching style is the most distinctive and/or memorable?
I love to use motivational quotes and music to inspire students to be kind and passionate about what they are doing each moment. Teachers must be positive, reflective, energetic and passionate. Teachers are important role models and these actions can promote a positive environment for students.
Since a large part of my career in public education involved teaching and supporting students with autism and their families, I believe that an individualized approach that addresses the whole child is needed as well as an understanding of the diverse needs of all students within a given classroom. The physical well-being, emotional well-being, academic strengths/interests and needed accommodations must be understood and used for planning effective instruction. Engagement, a variety of presentation and response formats, assessments and analyzing assessment results can help teachers meet the needs of many students.
Teachers also are important advocates for students and their families. Compliance with laws, policies, and procedures are so important. Good teachers also must be aware of community services and supports as well. An understanding of classroom management and positive behavior intervention is necessary when working with all students, especially those with special education needs.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
I love to read fiction, nonfiction, fantasy and science fiction. I practice Kundalini and Yin Yoga. When I have time, I like to watch movies and documentaries. I volunteer for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and St. Vincent de Paul. There is a pantry at the church I attend.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
I used to train German Shepherds and raised two litters of puppies. At one time I had four German Shepherds and a litter of 11 puppies! We worked in groups with others who owned German Shepherds and Rottweilers. We trained in our backyard and at different parks in the valley. I have done German Shepherd rescue before. Now that I am older, I have smaller dogs at home.