PELHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Shelby County teacher got a bonus for something she does every year: decorate her classroom. This time she won a contest.
"This is like a calming area if they are having some days that are not the best, this is an area that's safe for them. It's home for them," Michelle Murphy said.
That means everything to the parents of Murray's students who have profound special needs at the Linda Nolen Learning Center in Pelham.
Murray turned their classroom into a whimsical, colorful, interactive rain forest wonderland designed to play up their strengths and not their weaknesses.
Because many of them are sensitive to light, lots of things glow in the dark.
"Different textures, different sounds different lights, different opportunities for them to explore," Murray said.
Her classroom includes hands-on items from technology to the therapy table. So it's no wonder Murphy won the Design Star Challenge.
The contest was the brainchild of Michelle Hall, the fine arts supervisor for Shelby County Schools.
"Michelle has done a great job of really thinking about the needs of her kids and then designing something that was unique and special for each one of those students, her [students'] parents, when you read the comments they love her," Hall said.
"This lady is like a mother to these children,.she loves each of them and wants the very best for them," Shelby County Schools spokeswoman Cindy Warner said.
The teachers didn't know about the contest until after they had already decorated their rooms for the year.
"The contest came as an afterthought after we had done some visits," Warner explained.
Murphy's classroom won the contest with more than 800 likes on Facebook. Warner said there were 60 entries narrowed down to the top eight amazingly decorated classrooms.
They were blown away by teachers' creativity. But when they saw Murray's classroom, Hall said her first impression was "love."