Union Leader Correspondent
But those close to Murphy’s work with Pinkerton’s adapted physical education program paint a different picture.
“As the tough football coach, you wouldn’t automatically think he would take on this role, but he does it so well and with such a kind heart,” said Pinkerton physical education teacher Penny Faszewski on Friday.
Murphy has led the school’s adapted physical education program for four years, taking over after program creator Betty Shepard retired. Murphy, a 1978 Pinkerton graduate and All-State football player, has been teaching physical education classes and coaching at the school for 27 years.
Under the adapted program, students with special needs are paired with regular education students to work together on activities that modify traditional gym class sports, like flag football or kickball.
The program currently has 14 pairs of students who meet first thing each morning.
Regular education students participate as a senior elective course.
“In PE classes, there are a lot of motor skills going on and the idea is that peer partners help and assist so that everyone can succeed,” Murphy said Friday. “But it’s not just about special needs kids and adapting for them, it’s really students learning from each other and that carries over into the campus.”
Toward the end of the semester, student pairs develop their own curriculum for a class, choosing a particular sport and coming up with several related activities that can be adapted to the needs of each individual student.
“We work really hard to make sure that everyone feels included and that no one is left out,” said Emily Schlach, a senior from Candia.
Schlach said she signed up for the course after hearing some buzz on campus. There is currently a waiting list of more than 40 regular education students hoping to make it into the program.
“It’s a lot more fun than I even thought it would be, and it’s really cool to see these kids working so hard and to see them succeed feels great,” Schlach said.
Freshman Jack Klotz of Chester worked with Schlach a few weeks ago to put together a flag football lesson for their classmates.
Klotz said he joined the class for the exercise but that there are other benefits, too.
“I think this is really good for practicing my friendship skills,” he said.
And Schlach said Murphy’s leadership makes a big difference.
“He has the experience to make it work,” she said. “Everyone knows him as a tough coach, but he’s extremely patient and that’s one thing that surprised me.”
But Celine Murphy, Bryon Murphy’s daughter and fellow Pinkerton physical education teacher, says her dad has always been a bit misunderstood.
“Students in regular education see him as a tough, hard guy, but this brings out a softer side,” Celine Murphy said.
“This brings out the part of his character that I know.”
Recognizing Murphy’s impact at Pinkerton, Faszewski nominated him for the New Hampshire Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance’s Outstanding Professional in Adapted Physical Education award this year.
And during a Nov. 18 ceremony, Murphy took home the honor.
“I think of it more as a program award, not as a me award because there are a lot of people who are very important to the program,” Murphy said.
“I just feel fortunate to be able to work with these kids. It’s a good way to start the day with lots of energy.”