DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – What do french toast, corn dogs, meatballs, and pizza have in common? The easy answer is food. However, those who attend Derby High School will likely answer with the name: Michele Murray.
Murray, a long-time cook, is going on her tenth year at Derby High. She is an expert on all things breakfast and lunch at the school, but her most recognizable trait is perhaps her warm smile and her ever-changing hats.
“My first day of lunch, it was like I have to have a gimmick. I want these kids to look at me and say something to me, and I want to be able to respond back to them,” explained Murray.
That’s when Murray had the bright idea to start wearing specialty hats during lunchtime.
“I try to theme them towards a food product or something we are going to eat for the day,” Murray said.
From a pizza hat to a chicken on top of her head, Murray has all of the main dishes covered.
“I have a hot dog. I have a hamburger, a cheese head for macaroni and cheese,” she said. “My favorite of all is my chicken. My chicken hat has been with me for 23 years, and the kids love to tell me, ‘you have a chicken on your head,'” Murray laughed.
Whether it’s a chicken or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Murray’s hat collection has garnered quite a fan base. While KSN was interviewing Murray, multiple students stopped to comment and compliment Murray’s impeccable style.
“It just makes me happy. It just brightens up my day. Makes me have a better day,” said Derby senior Kendyl Rico.
“She’s like the best person I know,” said Derby junior Hallie Dorsey.
“It always makes me have a brighter day,” said Derby sophomore Boston Dunn.
Murray’s ultimate goal is to create positivity and a safe haven within the school.
“I am not going to give them a grade when they walk through here for lunch. They don’t have to worry if they are going to pass a test with me. All they have to do is smile at me, and I am going to smile back at them,” Murray said.
Murray is in her 23rd year as a school cook. She said all of these years later, she is just as excited to come to work as she was in the first year of her career.
“Let’s face it. When you serve food, you are serving other people. That is something that I enjoy. That is certainly, that is why I am here,” she said.
Tune into KSN News at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays for Emily Younger’s Positive Connections!