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Sixth-grader competes in contest

Eleven-year-old Gracie Murray believes in her school. In fact, she’s down right proud of it.
Murray, a sixth grader at Sulphur Springs School, is so proud that she put her feelings down in writing – a piece of work that landed her a top-three spot in a statewide essay contest.
Her teacher, Leslie Lyons, is thrilled that her young student did so well as a competitor in the State Collaborative On Reforming Education Foundation’s essay contest, The SCORE Prize.
“The SCORE Foundation allows our citizens to know more about what is going on in education, how it is changing and developing,” Lyons explained. “It’s an annual event and they offer an essay competition for all students in the state.”
A statewide panel selects the top five entries and then puts those finalists online where people can read the essays and vote for their favorite.
When all that was finished, Murray was in the top three. She was the youngest finalist by far with her two competitors in the 11th and 12th grades. The three students were invited to Nashville, to present their essays in person to a panel of judges. And although Murray didn’t walk away with first place, as far as her teacher is concerned, she is still a winner.
“Gracie is a wonderful student, a joy to have. She’s not only academically gifted, she is very outgoing and has a wonderful personality,” Lyons said. “When she won, we couldn’t wait for her to get to present that speech to the judging team because that is where she excels. She is a wonderful speaker. We are so lucky to have her at our school.”
Both Lyons and the subject of Murray’s essay, her fourth grade teacher, Mary Beth Larimer, went to Nashville to support her. Murray says she chose to write about Larimer because “she was one of my favorite teachers of all time and we did a lot of fun things.”
The essay focuses on the wonderful experiences she had in Larimer’s class and has inspired her to consider one day becoming either a social studies or math teacher.
“I want to be a teacher when I grow up, just like Mrs. Larimer,” Murray writes. “I want to make learning fun like [Larimer] does, make kids laugh like she does, and show love like she does.”
For Murray, getting the opportunity to go to Nashville to present her essay in person was a lot of fun.
“Nashville was really cool. It was really exciting,” Murray said. “At first I wasn’t too nervous about it, but at the last minute I was just nervous to death.”
In the end, the high school senior won, but Lyons is still very proud of her student. “If she can be in the running with a 12th grader, we’re pleased anyway,” she said.
As for Murray, she says she would love to go back again if she got the chance. She is planning to write another essay for the competition next year and offers the following advice to others who may want to enter:
“Just remember your favorite teacher,” Murray said, “and how you learned so many different things in their classroom.”