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By Fabiola San Roman

Galveston ISD is proud to announce February's E3 Employee of the Month, Darren Muren, Ball High Special Education Department Chair, Instructional Teacher, and Tor Store Director.

Darren has been teaching in Galveston ISD for the last twelve years. After graduating from San Diego State University in California, Darren moved to Galveston with his wife and twin brother. They all started their teaching careers with GISD. Darren began teaching Mathematics and English at Central and Austin Middle School, and then he transitioned to Ball High. 

Darren's passion for sports led him to spend nine years coaching baseball and football; he then retired to spend more time with his beautiful wife Katie Muren, 4th-grade teacher at Parker Elementary, and his daughters Finley and Sawyer. "I couldn't have done everything that I have done in the last twelve years without my wife's incredible support," says Darren.

Four years ago, Darren started a vocational program for the Special Education Life Skills Program at Ball High. Students in the life skills program got the opportunity to work at the "Tor Store," selling gum and drinks one period every day. Witnessing the positive impact of this program, Darren Muren and Paula Franklin Marshal applied and won a grant from the Galveston Education Foundation to purchase coffee makers, a Silhouette decal machine, and other products to begin a coffee club and create merchandise. Since then, the program has grown to six periods a day, allowing students to work on their vocational skills by selling food and drink items to teachers, delivering newspapers, running a coffee club with over twenty teachers, and making and selling merchandise. 

Last year, Darren and Rob Lewis, the incubator teacher, were awarded a grant of over $350,000 from the Moody Foundation to purchase printers and products for a new program called "Legacy." This program allows students to collaborate and make custom shirts for different clubs and organizations within the district. 

"It is wonderful getting to see the potential of our students. The incubator students get experience running a real business, and the students in the life skills program get the opportunity to work and grow their skills," says Darren. "Rob Lewis has been an integral part of this program coming to fruition."

This year, Darren and Rob received a proposal from Mike Dean, owner of Yaga's Foundation, to start a new program where the Tor Store and Legacy program students would collect, clean, and resell recycled Mardi Gras beads with the goal of reducing plastic waste. In five months, the students gathered and sold over 100,000 beads, which became local and national news, including a segment on Good Morning America where Darren was interviewed with one of his students.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our students to grow their skill sets, and we are so thankful to Mike Dean and his foundation for giving us this opportunity," Darren explained. 

Darren and Rob look forward to collaborating with different clubs and organizations to expand students' real-world experience.  Our Tor Store and Legacy program motto is "All students are essential."

Below are the descriptions of why Darren's nominators chose him for E3 Employee of the Month:

"He's dedicated, motivated, respectful, responsible, and insightful in educating his Life skills students. He works tirelessly with his students and projects and volunteers endless hours to promote/implement his lessons/activities for his students."

"Always willing to help, goes above and beyond to do so and always has a smile on his refreshing!"

"Darren has been going above and beyond with the SPED program, creating an environment for students that helps develop their skills.