Teaching Spanish, Pom coach at Sussex Tech is Alyssa’s latest stage

SELBYVILLE — For much of her 25 years on this earth, Alyssa Murray has been on stage or in the spotlight.

First as a dancer and gymnast.

Then, a pageant participant.

Alyssa Murray took in a summer vacation to Colombia, South America.

“I started dancing when I was two. I started taking gymnastics when I was like 18 months old,” said Ms. Murray, “I was real little; sometime when I was a toddler I started dancing and I just kind of stuck with it.”

Dance was a performance segment of her pageantry, which culminated in a life-altering happening at the Rollins Center at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in June of 2012. Before an audience of family and friends, Alyssa Murray – the 21-year-old Miss Coastal Bay entry – was crowned Miss Delaware 2012.

Her reign was a year of adventure, fulfillment and sacrifice. She took the year off from studies at the University of Delaware to serve as the First State’s goodwill ambassador. She made numerous appearances and commitments throughout the state.

The crowning catapulted her to Las Vegas for the Miss America pageant. There, she scored a first in Miss America pageant competition for Delaware, winning the Non-Finalist Interview Award. She also was one of seven finalists chosen for the 2013 Miss America Quality of Life Award.

These days, Ms. Murray is at home and has found her niche: teaching. She recently began her second year as Spanish teacher at Sussex Technical High School.

As choreographer for Sussex Tech’s Drama Club’s production of FAME, Alyssa Murray, front left, leads the cast in stretching exercises.

At Sussex Tech, she returns as choreographer for the school’s Drama Club, whose performance of FAME last year drew rave reviews.

And this year Ms. Murray has taken on a new and exciting role. She is the coach of Tech’s Pom Squad, a high-kicking cog in the school’s high-energy, fine-tuned, well-traveled band: Raven Nation.

“Honestly, when I started teaching two years ago, I saw the Pom Squad at Tech and I really wanted to work with them,” said Ms. Murray. “So, getting offered that coaching job was really exciting for me.”

Born in Salisbury, Ms. Murray was raised in the Selbyville area. Her family roots include farming.

She is the daughter of Craig Murray and Anne Toomey. She has an older brother, Cory, a younger sister Remi, stepmom Karen Strong Murray and stepdad Floyd Toomey.

She graduated from Indian River High School in 2010 and the University of Delaware in 2015.’

This week’s People to Meet spotlight: Alyssa Murray.

Your minor at University of Delaware was Spanish. Your major?

“Mass communications and exercise science, which basically is kind of like biology, but less chemistry.”

You are in your third year of teaching Spanish?

“Yes, I taught grades 8-12 at Laurel my first year.”

Your decision to pursue teaching as a career?

“I honestly never thought that I would be a teacher. But when I was Miss Delaware I did a lot of ‘Character Counts’ presentations.  So, I was around elementary schools. I knew I didn’t want to teach elementary school. That was never the goal.”

“I really like working with high schoolers because you get to see them grow. Writing the letters of recommendation for college, it’s really exciting to see your kids come in and say they got accepted somewhere and they got a full ride somewhere or they got accepted in their dream school. High school is definitely for me.”

Passion for Spanish ushered you into the classroom?

“I just never knew what I really wanted to do but I always knew it would be something to help people and probably something with kids. So, it was kind of like the education thing just fell in my lap because I love Spanish. I love the language and the culture.”

What are your future plans for your education career?

“I am getting a master’s in teacher leadership from the University of Delaware right now. But I really like being in the classroom. I don’t see myself going in to be a principal or a superintendent or anything like that at this point in my life. I like working with the kids.”

Care to share some of your accomplishments?

Alyssa Murray dressed for an elegant evening out in Colombia.

“I think surviving my first year of teaching was a big one. And Miss America, it was so long ago but that was awesome. I met some of my best friends there. I was just in Miami in July with a bunch of them. There were like eight of us. We had a blast. I keep in touch with them. Of course, Miss America itself was great and being able to compete and experience that. It was cool. Now, at this point I am more thankful for the girls that I am still friends with.”

You dig sloths?

“I love them. I met a sloth last year. That was the highlight of my year for sure. Her name is Reina, which means ‘queen’ in Spanish. She is the queen. She is adorable.”

Fitness fits into your routine?

“I grew up being a competitive gymnast so I always knew how to work out, because they always had to. And then at dance we would always have conditioning days. In high school, I did cheerleader and swimming.”

“When I started doing pageants I had a trainer up in Newark. When I moved back home and I won Miss Delaware I started going to The Firm with Paul Timmons. He taught me a whole different way of working out that works better for me. I still go to him as much as possible. He really made me like working out for me, not for particular events. It used to be like, ‘OK, I have to go work out because I am competing in a pageant.’ But now it’s like I have to go work out because I want to work out.”

How has your reign as Miss Delaware impacted you?

“I think I became a lot more independent that year and a lot more self-sufficient. My mom worked and my executive director, she was working. You are on the road a lot and you are alone a lot. So, you kind of have to learn to really like yourself to spend that much time away. I’m more comfortable now going to different events alone and talking to new people.”

“When you are in that particular setting for a year I think … you kind of find who the people in your life are that are going to be there for the rest of it. It’s hard to be a good friend as Miss Delaware. It’s hard to balance your personal relationships with the job. I was on the road every day.”

“I also learned a lot about different towns in northern Delaware. There are a lot places I didn’t know existed. So, I learned a lot about northern and western Delaware, and places that I hadn’t been to before.”

How about leisure time?

“I like to cook and workout. I love to travel if I have time. And I love shopping … a little bit too much.”

Got a Fun Fact, two or maybe three?

“When I was cheer-leading captain at Indian River I fell flat on my butt at a pep rally. I did a back handspring pass and I just overshot it and landed flat on my butt.”

“I introduced myself at the wrong time the year that I won Miss Delaware.”

“I collect footie pajamas, like onesies.”

“I have a phobia of chalk. I hate it. So, I will never teach at a school that still has chalkboards. It can’t happen.”

“I have broken like 40 bones.”

Whoa! Like 40 bones? There are only like 200 some bones in the human body …?

“I have broken a lot of them.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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