Board News

Workforce Solutions Partners with Windham School District

Workforce Solutions Partners with Windham School District - McAllen, TX – Representatives from the Lower Rio Grande Valley Workforce Solutions Board (WFS) and the Windham School District (WSD) met on April 24, 2018 at the WFS Corporate Office to sign a partnership agreement that will lead to the development of a program meant to help offenders rejoin the workforce.

Windham Workday video takes look at hands-on vocational training

Windham School District - Career & Technical Education WORKDAY

 


If you experience problems playing the YouTube video above, please use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq3HHTFKjcA

 

Walker County Educator of the Year: Terry Murray’s students learn how to shine in prison classroom

The Huntsville Item

By Tom Waddill, Feb 25, 2018 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.

Students stay alert in Terry Murray's classroom. They have to, otherwise they might get hit on the head by a flying football.

A literacy teacher in the Windham School District, Murray uses a football — her squishy Sam Houston State Bearkat model — to call on her students. She asks a question, then tosses the ball to a student.

"When they catch the ball, it's their turn to shine," Murray said with a smile. 

And shine they do. 

Students never get bored in Terry Murray's literacy classroom. For 3 1/2 hours each day, they work on assignments and learn things they didn't learn in school the first time they were there. Murray prepares her students to take the test for a GED degree. 

"When I tell them they passed (the GED test), it's amazing. It's just amazing," Murray says. "Some of the guys literally kiss the ground. Some of them cry. It's very rewarding." 

Offenders young and old — inmates who read and write on a wide range of levels — enjoy the educational experience in Murray's classroom inside the Estelle Unit, which is located about 20 miles north of Huntsville. 

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.  Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.

Most of the students in Murray's class accomplish their No. 1 goal. They earn their General Education Development, or GED, degree.

"The guys realize then that they're going to leave here with something they didn't have before. Some of them have never felt success before, and after they pass that test, they feel like they've accomplished something. And they have."

Proudly, Terry Murray says, "I love working for Windham. This is probably the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had. Every day is a different day. I tell my students, 'Don't give up.' My motto is, I'm fair, I'm firm and I'm strict. I don't take no for an answer. Some of the students who are reluctant to learn, I tell them to give me three weeks. If they give me three weeks, their attitudes will change."

Murray has been teaching in the Windham School District since 1991. She started her career in Madisonville, then jumped to Willis where she taught reading and math to special education students. 

After seven years in Willis, Murray started looking for a job closer to her Huntsville home. In the Windham District, which are the schools inside Texas prisons, she found what she was looking for and more.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM."I love working for Windham," Murray said proudly. "This is probably the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had. Every day is a different day. I tell my students, 'Don't give up.' My motto is, I'm fair, I'm firm and I'm strict. I don't take no for an answer.

"Some of the students who are reluctant to learn, I tell them to give me three weeks. If they give me three weeks, their attitudes will change," she added. "Just give me a chance. That's all I ask." 

Murray's boss says it's amazing to watch this teacher work her magic. 

More than 25 years into her career with the Windham School District, Terry Murray says she's still enthused and energized by her job teaching offenders in the Texas prison system. Many of Murray's students come to her class unfamiliar with success. Most leave her class with a General Education Development, or GED, degree and a newfound confidence they can take with them when they get out of prison.

"I send all of my newly hired teachers to observe in Ms. Murray's class because of her exceptional classroom management skills and because of how she masterfully guides her students to achieve excellence in education," said Frieda Hamer Spiller, a principal in the Windham School District who works in the Ferguson, Goree, Holliday, Huntsville and Wynne units.

"Teaching at the Estelle Unit for the past 20 years or so, Terry has impacted the lives of multitudes of offender students in her literacy class," Spiller added. "She has guided well over 400 of these students who have achieved their GEDs. Not only is Ms. Murray dedicated to teaching the offender population and helping her students achieve society's minimal educational standard, but she also sets high academic standards that her students strive to attain."

Using some of the same tools she employed as a youthful teacher in Willis, Murray makes her students at Estelle feel special. Some of them don't stop with their GEDs; many of Murray's students keep pushing and start pursuing a college education.

TerryMurray-0

TDCJ Warden Wayne Brewer (right) and Major Kevin Smith congratulate
WSD teacher Terry Murray on being named an outstanding educator for Walker County.

"First, you've got to make the students feel worthy," Murray explained. "They've got to feel like, 'I can do this,' then you can begin a lot of cooperative learning. In my classroom, they learn to work together. When they get out in the real world, they've got to be able to do that.

"They come into class timid and withdrawn and leave out with knowledge and power that cannot be taken away."

 

 

Success Stories

Success Story IconFormer Windham student becomes successful electrician -
Garrett Stanley, a wonderful story of success in life after incarceration.

Success Story IconIndependent Data Contractor Success Story -
"Due largely to the training I received from my teacher, I am able to be an independent ...

Success Story IconNEW - Better future after prison - "It's mind-blowing and inspirational to know that you can have a better future after prison"

Success Story IconEducation changed my life -
"These opportunities [GED® classes or learning a trade] are great, but WSD is so much more than that; for me it was a change of life."

Contact Us

P.O. Box 13084
Austin, Texas 78711-3084

Telephone: (512) 475-3250
Fax: (512) 305-9398

Email: tbcj@tdcj.state.tx.us

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WSD in Images

Auto specialization students in a West Texas prison learn auto maintenance skills, preparing themselves for future employment as professional mechanics.
An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
Each day WSD correctional educators pass through prison gates across Texas to work with men and women incarcerated within TDCJ.
Female offenders in Gatesville, Texas, study to improve their literacy skills during a WSD academic class.

Former Student Survey