Texas legislator honors Windham School District graduates and family members with words of encouragement in Gatesville

Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) spoke at the Windham School District GED and vocational graduation at the Hughes Unit on June 28, 2014.

"The fact that you are here shows you have taken some steps to improve yourself and your standing in life … we support you and applaud you for that choice," he said. "We support and congratulate the family members who are here to show their love and devotion to you on this momentous day."

Sheffield encouraged the offenders to continue to prepare themselves for successful, productive lives after release:

"We believe by doing what you have done today to get to this graduation you have proven you have what it takes to make a difference in your life … to improve yourself," he said. "All of us who have lived this life long enough know we cannot determine what’s going to happen in our lives, but we can determine how we react to what happens in our lives."

Hughes Unit graduates had completed GED or vocational training, as well as receiving National Center for Construction Education and Research certification. Their accomplishments were recognized by family members, school faculty, and unit staff attending the graduation.

 

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WSD employees have from July 3, 2015 to July 17, 2015 to make changes to their insurance benefits for Plan year 2016 (which runs from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016). Go to www.ers.state.tx.us to create your login and password. You may need to establish an online account.

When you access ERS Online, you will see your insurance enrollment and personal contact information. During Annual Enrollment time, click on "Benefits Enrollment" to make changes to your benefits for Plan Year 2016. A video member tutorial showing employees how to make annual Enrollment changes is available on the ERS website.

If you will be making changes that require Evidence of Insurability (EOI) approval, such as enrolling in or increasing the amount of optional term life, adding dependent life, short/long term disability you will need to submit an EOI online.

If you don’t want to change your benefits, you do not need to do anything. Your current benefits will continue in plan Year 2016.

Go to the ERS website to find out more information about Annual Enrollment.

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."

 

 

El Distrito Escolar de Windham (WSD) firmó un acuerdo de asociación con Clean Scapes Landscaping de Austin, Texas - El Distrito Escolar de Windham (WSD) firmó un acuerdo de asociación con Clean Scapes Landscaping-Austin, Texas. Los estudiantes de WSD que toman el curso vocacional de Diseño, Construcción y Mantenimiento de Paisajes obtienen una certificación de la industria de la Asociación de Viveros y Paisajismo de Texas. Estas certificaciones preparan a los estudiantes de WSD para el empleo después de la liberación.

Central Texas welders thank CTE teacher for training, influence - Locked up as teenagers and serving about 20 years each for murder charges, Candelario Davila and Jose Sanchez are unlikely success stories.  They were destined to years of solitary time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Administrative Segregation, lacking motivation, mentors and job skills.  However, a correctional educator they describe as "father figure" and "the greatest welder ever" provided the intervention needed to transform their lives. Today they are gainfully employed as welders in the Austin area, enjoying their families, freedom and work.

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