Matthew Murphy looks to bring back the ‘community’ as new principal at Mater Christi. (Emily Benson photo)
Matthew Murphy looks to bring back the ‘community’ as new principal at Mater Christi. (Emily Benson photo)

Back in early September, Matthew Murphy walked through the halls of Mater Christi School in Albany. The classrooms were quiet and dark as school wouldn’t start until the following week. Murphy greeted the cleaning staff, working diligently to prepare for the first day back, and popped in a classroom to say “hi” to two teachers, also preparing for the first day.

Murphy said he was ready for the kids to come back; it was weird to have the school so quiet. He had been at Mater Christi almost every day since the start of July, preparing — much like his other staff — for the first day.

But this first day on Sept. 8 was different: Murphy, who has spent almost his entire career as a teacher, started this school year as principal of Mater Christi.

“It seemed like a natural progression going from a classroom teacher to taking on more responsibility,” he said. “But it’s something I felt like I could do and it’s something I felt like why not do. It’s more about being a resource for others; it’s about service.”

Murphy got his start working for the City School District of Albany before switching to St. Mary’s School in Waterford where he taught middle-school social studies for almost 10 years. Outside of the classroom, Murphy helped organize many clubs and student activities, serving as a member of the Commissioner of New York State Education’s advisory council and coaching high school football across the Capital District. 

It was no surprise to Murphy that he would end up in a classroom. A Boston native, with a house right by the Logan International Airport, Murphy grew up watching planes fly overhead. At first, his dreams started as being a pilot, but after realizing he was too big for the cockpit, switched to teaching and working in a school.

“My belief is that kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said. “And if you build relationships with kids everything else falls into place. When you build relationships, you know how they learn because they tell you. Meet their needs and meet them where they’re at.”

Murphy earned his bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina University in American history, his master’s degree in childhood education from The College of St. Rose, and recently completed his school builder and district leader certification at The College of St. Rose. After graduating from Salve Regina, Murphy worked in the Albany School District before taking a break to explore other careers. He worked with metals and welding at his father-in-law’s company for a year before he missed teaching.

“For the first two months it was great, but teachers are relationship driven by nature and curious by nature. So I talked to some people I knew about giving teaching another shot and I got connected with teaching at St. Mary’s.”

Murphy started teaching Grades 4 and 5 but eventually switched to middle-school social studies and some ELA during his last five years. When the position at Mater Christi opened, it was Murphy’s wife, Kate, who encouraged him to consider applying for the job.

“My wife had said to me, ‘Look at the difference you make in a classroom, don’t you think that would be multiplied by being a building leader?’ And it was something I thought about,” he said.

Now in the role, Murphy said the first year will be “figuring out what the needs are.” Murphy also hopes to bring back more after-school programs, some of the old Catholic school traditions — like older student-younger student buddy programs — and incorporate Mater Christi parishioners more in the school’s activities. Any and all of the activities that were lost during COVID, Murphy hopes to reinstate.

“My goal right now is looking at where we’ve been the last few years and bringing back the community, bringing back activities for the children, bringing back the parishioners to be part of our student’s lives,” he said. “That’s really what my goal is: improving the daily experience of our students and our teachers.”

Getting the school and community together isn’t just beneficial for the student body, it’s a way for Murphy to interact and socialize with his school and faculty.

“I want to be out and about,” he said. “I told Father (Brian Lehnert, pastor of Mater Christi Church) if this meant I was chained to the desk, I’m not taking the job because I’m gonna be in and out of classrooms. It’s multi-purpose: the kids will see you and teachers will see you’re part of us, not just someone who shows up a couple of times a year to take notes and observe.”

“It’s exciting,” Murphy added. “I’m ready for this to start. I’m ready. I’m hopeful that I can be everything that they want me to be.”

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