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Coaching led to love of teaching
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

May 06. 2013 6:00AM
Like many men who go into education, Ed Murtha thought teaching would give him access to coaching. The Woonsocket native was head wrestling coach at his first teaching job in Groton. He also was assistant football and track coach there, as well as at his next teaching job at O’Gorman, and at Brandon Valley in his early years here. He also was assistant wrestling coach at O’Gorman and Brandon Valley.

Murtha hasn’t coached for years, though. “I learned to love teaching more,” the eighth-grade math teacher said.

When he came to Brandon Valley in 1990, he taught high school math as well as eighth grade. But when the middle school opened in 1994, he was assigned there and has been there since.

He loves teaching at the middle school level, he said. “I think they’re a livelier bunch. They keep me on my toes. They have that sparkle of life.”

Murtha, typically known as a quiet person, has his livelier moments also, though. In April, he let loose with a song and dance at the annual middle school Spring Fling, His performance had students, parents and staff cheering.

Sarah Archer is one of Murtha’s eighth-grade students this year. She said she is learning a lot from her teacher. “He helps you if you don’t get it,” she said. She says his class is fun, and sometimes he makes jokes.

Murtha, 57, said this year was the right year for him to retire because of a couple of things. The state offers a retirement buy-out to teachers of a certain age, plus state teaching standards are changing.

Like many families of teachers, education runs in Murtha’s family. His wife, Brenda, is director of financial aid at Augustana College where one of the couple’s daughters, Erin, is a student. She is married to Sean Hartka. The other daughter, Mateya, is a student at Lincoln High School.
The older Murtha son, Daniel, is a teacher in Harrisburg. The younger son, David, works with computers for a Sioux Falls company.

Murtha said he will miss the students and especially his co-workers when he leaves Brandon Valley. But he isn’t leaving teaching. He has accepted a job working with all levels of high school math at Joe Foss School in Sioux Falls. Joe Foss is an alternative school where students often complete courses at their own pace through independent study. Murtha will act in an advisory capacity, coaching students and monitoring their progress.

Ed Murtha is retiring from Brandon Valley Middle School, but he won't quit working. He has accepted a position with Joe Foss school in Sioux Falls. Photo by Alica P. Thiele

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