Virginia Tech’s Shannon Marshall Mury was named First Steps 2022 Early Childhood Champion of the Year during the Early Childhood Champions Awards in September.

An employee of Virginia Tech’s Child Development Center for Learning and Research since 2012, Mury has taught all ages, worked in each of the center’s classrooms, and recently started a new role as mentor teacher for all the other educators. Over the years, she’s developed a reputation for not only identifying areas for improvements but taking an active role in making those improvements happen.

“What really inspires me with her is her ability to find or to recognize where the needs are in the program. And that can be in her classroom, a colleague’s classroom, or our program as a whole,” said Karen Gallagher, director of the center. “She comes with solutions when she sees a challenge and she’s willing to step in and help facilitate and implement those strategies and solutions.”

The Child Development Center for Learning and Research is a full-time, full-year school program with students ages 15 months to 5 years, 11 months, many of whom come from families who are bilingual or trilingual. The diverse environment led Mury to pursue a master’s degree in English as a second language, which she earned from Virginia Tech in 2019.

“She recognized that need for the children in our school. So she’s really great at transitioning those children and their families into our program,” Gallagher said.

The Early Childhood Champion of the Year award came less than a year after Mury won the 2021 Helen Marks National Teacher of the Year Award.

“Winning this award means so much to me. I am proud of the work we do as early childhood educators and hope to inspire future educators to enter this very important field,” Mury said. “The work we do lays the foundation for how a child learns throughout their lives.”

Mury was one of 19 nominees for the Early Childhood Champion of the Year award. The list also included Child Development Center for Learning and Research’s Alea Lacoste, who plans to graduate with a bacholer’s degree in childhood pre-education in December, and Marin Riegger, director of the Little Hokie Hangout at Virginia Tech.

The awards ceremony was held for a second year by First Steps, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley which consists of more than 60 organizations dedicated to young children and their families. The goal of the event was to not only celebrate Mury and the other nominees, but to also draw attention to the importance of their work and its impact on the region as a whole.

This message was bolstered by video messages local higher education leadership, including Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, all of whom celebrated the nominees and emphasized the importance of high-quality childcare to the region’s economy and quality of life.

The ceremony echoes the ongoing Virginia Tech effort to identify community-based solutions to address the lack of adequate early care and education opportunities within the university  community and the area surrounding the Blacksburg campus. That effort has included hosting community and business leaders for a summit on the topic, providing a free early childhood symposium for the region’s educators, and hiring Kim Thomason as the program manager for early childhood education initiatives in spring 2021.

  • The other 2022 nominees:
  • Tonya Cook, book coordinator at Reading is Fun in Floyd
  • Michelle Crowder, preschool teacher at Kindercare
  • Lori Dobbins, office administrator at Radford Head Start
  • Carol Martin, administrator director at Building Bridges Child Development Center
  • Resa Mattson, program coordinator at the June Bug Center
  • Courtney McClaughtery, childcare director at the Giles Health and Family Center
  • Sheila Morrison, director of the Imagination Station
  • Linda Pospichal, first grade teacher at the Blacksburg New School
  • Stefi Schafer, early childhood teacher at Blue Mountain School
  • Brittany Dixon Weber, lead teacher at Radford Early Learning Center
  • Jessica Wirgau, chief executive officer at the Community Foundation of the New River Valley