The Orange County Education Foundation held the first Celebration of Learning celebration on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 at James Madison’s Montpelier . The foundation presented its first Lifetime Contribution Award to long time Orange educator Murcelle Coleman.

Coleman, who came to Orange in 1965, taught at George Washington Carver Regional High School before Orange County desegregated its schools when she became one of the first four African American teachers at Orange County High School. While there, she made an impact, helping the school transition from a fully segregated white institution to a fully integrated environment where an African American teacher could become one of the school’s most honored
educators. In 1973, the school’s yearbook was dedicated to Coleman. Coleman retired in 1987 after having spent 40 years in education, the final 21 of which were in Orange County High School.

In addition to education, Coleman also served as the first African American on the Town of Orange Planning Commission and the Orange Town Council and served on the Orange County School Board. “Mrs. Coleman was chosen [as the first award recipient] for her 40-plus years of service as an educator, as well
as her service on the school board,” Orange County Education Foundation President Bryan Hargett said. Board member Jonathan Chasen agreed.

“I think Mrs. Coleman is an excellent representative of a lifelong commitment to education,” he said. “Both her service as a well-regarded teacher and a member of the school board not only broke barriers, but also allowed Orange County’s school system to embrace our highest ideals.”

Coleman said she’s very grateful for the award and humble.

“I don’t see anything I’ve done to deserve it,” she said. “All of my life has been spent in education; it’s all I’ve ever done. I can’t think of anything else that I would have enjoyed more or that would have been more rewarding. It’s wonderful to have people of all ages-faces are familiar but you can’t recall their name or the name is familiar but you can’t recall their face-say nice things about you and the different ways you have influenced decisions they’ve made. In some way you’ve made an impact on their lives. It’s very gratifying.”

Text By: Gracie Hart Brooks, Staff Reporter (Reprinted with permission of Gracie Hart Brooks) Published September 26, 2012 in the Orange County Review.