Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Award

Biology teacher
The Spence School New York, New York

It should be remarkable,” classics major Noël Grisanti writes in her nomination of Elisa Murphy, “that my single most influential teacher ... who still advises me on career choices and plays an active role in my life, teaches in a field for which I feel no natural inclination.” Known for her challenging biology courses at The Spence School, Murphy applied her experiences in medical school to crafting an engaging curriculum. “She enabled her students to envision themselves as doctors, researchers and even teachers,” writes Olivia Pinney, the second of three graduating Amherst seniors to nominate Murphy. “Every point we got wrong was another opportunity for her to further explain all the wild, and often beautiful, intricacies of living organisms.” Murphy set a high bar for students and, as Pinney recalls, many of them cleared it. “I have never seen so many students take as much initiative to learn beyond the scope of the class.” Murphy’s expectations were matched by her commitment to supporting student success and her patience in cultivating a culture of mutual respect. “I loved Ms. Murphy so much,” writes Caitlin Merrell,“because she was engaging, a role model, and she was also a friend.”