The Right Brain Initiative


Right Brain Teacher Profile – Karen Murphy

December 2nd, 2015 by Right Brain Team

Our 2015 Progress Report has hit the streets, and it’s filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools.

In celebration of this work, we bring you an excerpt—a testimonial from North Plains Elementary School Principal Karen Murphy. Read on as Karen reflects upon the creativity she sees being brought to life through Right Brain.

karen murphy profile

North Plains, Oregon is a remote town more than 25 miles northwest of Portland. Karen Murphy is the energetic principal of the town’s elementary school. In addition to Karen’s work as an educator, she has been a singer with the Dickens Carolers for almost 20 years. “The arts are really a priority for me as a human being,” she says.

When she became principal at North Plains in 2013, she found there wasn’t as much art as she was accustomed to. “It saddened me greatly.”

Because of Karen’s stance on the arts, it’s likely no accident that the school district identified North Plains to partner with Right Brain. In the fall of 2014, three of Karen’s teachers began attending Right Brain professional development workshops. They then designed a residency with Korekara Taiko, a Japanese- American drumming group on the Right Brain artist roster.

This experience was a big deal for her entire school community and her eyes well up when she talks about it: “One child was so insistent that he be here for the Taiko recital, he delayed his family vacation plans so he could participate.”

But it didn’t end there. The teachers used this work as a springboard to create full units about the Japanese-American experience. Teachers who attended Right Brain trainings began integrating the arts at a higher level and inspired their colleagues to do so, as well.

karen murphy quoteKaren says the increased quality of instruction is palpable. As she makes visits throughout the building, she uses a rubric to assess the depth of the learning experiences she sees. She noticed that the only time her students achieved the highest level of thinking was when her staff were utilizing Right Brain or other arts strategies.

These days, North Plains has more arts programming throughout the school. One teacher started an after-school arts integration club. Other staff initiated a field trip to see a high school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. “Our children have never had experiences like this,” she said.

Right Brain has effectively given Karen a structure to help her turn North Plains Elementary into a building where creativity is part of the culture. “Right Brain is a catalyst. It gave us a purpose and a reason to be weaving the arts in.” 


Right Brain Team