As graduation approaches, many students are looking back on their years of education. For some Warren Area High School seniors, their memories are sticking on Lori Murphy.
Murphy, who was an eighth-grade teacher at Beaty Warren Middle School until 2005, is now a first-grade teacher at South Street Early Learning Center and a favorite among the class of 2009.
Though it has been four years since the students have had Murphy as a teacher, many of them still stay in touch.
Matt Bennett, who will be attending Duquesne University in the fall to study chemistry, said he sends Murphy text messages weekly.
"Anytime I see her I go up and give her a big hug," he said.
For Murphy it is not unusual for her former students to text or call her. She said she stays in touch with many of them that way.
Murphy also said many of her students have come to South Street to visit her and she has lunch with a few of them on a regular basis.
"We never lose touch," she said.
Both Murphy and the students acknowledge that it is unusual, but Murphy is glad that her students are so eager to keep in contact.
"For them to want me in their life," she said, "I'm flattered and honored."
"She's my favorite teacher ever," David Loranger said, "but, not only that, she's like a friend."
Murphy recognized the friendship and said that when the kids were in her eighth-grade English class, they often came to her for advice.
"They were so open all of the time," she said. "They were willing to put their emotions out there."
Murphy's willingness to listen often drew a crowd. Loranger, who will be attending Northeastern University to study accounting, said there were even students that came to her homeroom that didn't even have her as a teacher.
The students and Murphy both remember that the principal at Beaty told Murphy that so many students in her room was a fire hazard.
"It was so packed in the morning you couldn't move," Murphy said.
Murphy and the students both said the easy relationship between them developed on mutual respect.
"She's just so genuine," said Adam Miller, who will be attending Millersville University to study mathematics. "She gave respect to students, so students respected her."
Murphy said she always wanted her room to be a "safe haven" for students.
"They could express their thoughts and know that I wouldn't get mad at them," she said.
That even extended to her teaching, with Murphy open to criticism to let the kids learn how they wanted.
She said she even let a student teach her class simply because he asked.
Abby Guiffre, who will be attending Clarion University to study early childhood education, job shadowed Murphy and said the teacher has influenced her career decision.
"I would like to have the relationship with my students that she did with us," Guiffre said.
Murphy's relationship with her students continued well past eighth grade. When they were juniors, they invited her to be a chaperone at their prom.
"They always made me feel welcome," Murphy said. "That made me feel so honored and privileged."
The students mutual affection for the teacher is present in their invitations, text messages and even an anonymous letter sent to the Times Observer written by a senior about Murphy's impact on their class.
"Mrs. Murphy was the first teacher that gave us our freedom," Bennett said.
Which is something that neither the seniors nor Murphy will forget soon.
"I have loved watching them mature to be seniors," Murphy said. "I think they are all great men and women."