Murtha’s true love: finding creative ways to make education fun

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Dave Winter

Aryn Murtha accesses Blend to check on the information graphics projects her advanced graphics design students completed. She said students completed the assignment on Adobe Illustrator if they had the software the free web-based software Pixlr if they didn’t.

Graphic Design teacher, Aryn Murtha, shows off her “I voted sticker.”

Aryn Murtha didn’t always know she wanted to be a teacher. But after 10 years of working in the tech industry, the new graphic design teacher realized she had only ever been happy helping kids.

“I thought about jobs I had where I actually enjoyed going to work and it was education.” Murtha said. “Finding creative ways to make education fun for kids was what I loved. With my design background, I decided teaching design would be a great fit.”

Ms. Murtha has now been teaching graphic design for three years, and before that has eight years of experience in graphic design work. She grew up in San Antonio, Texas and found her passion for video editing and drawing in high school. Because of this, she decided to attend Sam Houston University, where she was influenced by many people.

“I attended Sam Houston State University for Broadcast Journalism for 2 years then transferred to UTSA and received a BA in Technical Communications.” Murtha said. “I took a graphic design class and my professor, Red Madden, really inspired me to do design for a career.”

From there, Murtha decided to pursue her passion for teaching and design and when she heard McCallum had an opening, she decided to apply right away.

This is my fourth year teaching, but with BLEND and not being able to use Adobe programs it honestly feels like my first year all over again.”

— graphic design teacher Aryn Murtha

“I’ve heard great things about McCallum,” Murtha said, “and I was really excited that the opportunity presented itself and that the school is very arts-focused.”

Ms. Murtha had previously been at Crockett High School where she also taught graphic design and life skills. Although she was grateful for the opportunities at Crockett, Murtha was excited and nervous for what came next.

“I guess starting at any new school is a little scary.” Murtha said. “You don’t know any students or teachers so that’s the most difficult part, making new relationships with people, I was more excited than anything though.”

But coming in as a new teacher can be unfamiliar and crazy enough without a COVID-affected year, and even tech focused teachers, like Ms. Murtha seem to be having a weird time adjusting.

“This is my fourth year teaching, but with BLEND and not being able to use Adobe programs it honestly feels like my first year all over again.” Murtha said. “Normally everything my classes do is online but we always used Google Classroom since BLEND seems to go down frequently. It’s been an adjustment, but I think we’re going to get through it.”

And though we’ve had a rocky start to what should have been a normal school year, it’s important to keep up with the hobbies and habits that separate us from the stresses of school life. For Aryn Murtha this means spending time with her husband and friends online via games and movies along with playing her oboe, which she states, basically paid for her entire college education.

It seems like a lot of teachers have been at MAC for a long time, and I’m excited to be at a school where teachers want to stay!”

— Aryn Murtha

“I love to watch horror movies and read horror/mystery novels in my free time.” Murtha says. “I love anything and everything spooky!”

And in just the short amount of time that Ms. Murtha has been a part of the Mac community, she has already started adding her own touches in the form of a new club, the “Get Creative Club.”

“I’m bringing my Get Creative club to MAC this year!” Murtha said. “If you’re a student who wants to be in the creative, technology industry our club brings CEOs and mentors into the classroom from some of Austin’s best tech companies and agencies. We’ll do some creative projects, help you start your portfolio for college, gain paid internships at some of Austin’s best agencies, and possibly win SXSW tickets to meet professionals in the film, design, and creative industry. If students are interested in graphic design, journalism, photojournalism, or A/V production they can join our club!”

The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday during fit and after school on Thursdays and it’s just one of the things Murtha is looking forward to the most this year.

“I’m most looking forward to getting to know everyone.” She says. “It seems like a lot of teachers have been at MAC for a long time, and I’m excited to be at a school where teachers want to stay!”