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Youth Service Award presented to retired teacher

Award is given each year as the Kiwanis Club’s top honor

POSTED: April 26, 2011 11:08 p.m.

Mary Ellen Murray

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In a room full of about 170 guests, Kiwanis Club of Gainesville's Eddie Hartness presented retired Gainesville High School teacher Mary Ellen Murray with the annual Youth Service Award Tuesday night.

The primary focus of the Kiwanis Club is youth service and the Youth Service Award is the top honor in the club, Hartness said before the banquet at Chattahoochee Country Club.

"The annual award is presented to a person who has rendered outstanding service to the youth of our community, giving both their time and their resources," said Hartness, chair of the Youth Service Award selection committee. "It's a tough decision to make. Every year, we get good nominees."

Hartness said Murray stood out from the others.

"All of the candidates were dedicated and committed and worked hard, but her dedication and commitment and the time she devoted was exceptional," he said.

Murray taught advanced placement U.S. history and senior law at Gainesville High School and after 35 years, she retired in 2005.

She was named Northeast Georgia Academic All Stars' most influential instructor. She was faculty adviser for Gainesville High Key Club for several years and also took students on annual trips to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail and learn history.

Murray returned to the Gainesville High part-time in 2008 to teach advanced placement history. The Gainesvillle Northeastern Bar Association honored her with its Liberty Bell award.

"(The Youth Service Award) is not for doing a good job in your profession, but for voluntary service to our youth above and beyond your professional duties," Hartness said.

Murray was taken aback when Hartness announced her name.

"It was just absolutely a shock. It's quite an honor and I appreciate it," she said. "It was an unexpected surprise."

She said she has always gravitated toward working with children and it is something she enjoys.

If you ask Murray's former student Lee Rogers what he thinks of her, he will tell you she was a teacher who was witty, down to earth, and she always knew how to keep her students engaged.

"She really related to her students and she was a great influence in a lot of ways," said Rogers, who was Murray's student in 1993 and 1994. "She kept things interesting, which I think is always a challenge, especially when you are dealing with juniors and seniors in high school. She was great. She didn't take herself too seriously, but she believed in good education and she had the attention and respect of all of her students."



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