The first day of school in Gretchen Murray’s classroom starts in a very specific place: the floor. That is where she sits in a circle with her students and allows each child to talk about a time when someone hurt their feelings. Each child pounds a nail into a block of wood for every harsh word. Then, as the circle is repeated with positive words and the nails are removed, Murray points out that a hole still remains. “We don’t make holes in our class,” she tells her students. In Murray’s class, integrity, responsibility and commitment are the norm. As a result, her students consistently make significant progress, as 86 percent of the class scored in the 90th percentile of the MCOMP evaluation this winter, compared to 27 percent in the fall. Murray starts each day of her SALTA class with a stirring injunction to make the most of every moment, as her students learn to solve multi-faceted problems, think critically and learn self-mastery. As a “teacher of the mind and of the soul,” as one parent said, Murray has been selected to be Peruvian Park’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.