By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo gifted teacher Tara Harris was guiding 41 students on a field trip in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday when she received a text message to call the superintendent.
Hoping nothing was wrong, she phoned Gearl Loden. That was how Harris learned she had been selected as Teacher of the Year for Mississippi’s First Congressional District.
Harris, who was honored as Tupelo’s Teacher of the Year in February, is now one of four finalists for the statewide honor. That winner will be announced April 16.
“It was just an honor to represent Tupelo and now be a finalist for the state award,” said Harris, who teaches at Thomas Street Elementary School. “I don’t tend to think broadly. It will help me be aware I can be a leader in the state.”
Both Tupelo Public School District Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell and Thomas Street Principal Kay Collins noted that Harris has long established herself as a leader in her school and district. She played a key role in helping the district launch its arts integration initiative and has led statewide training on the program.
“Not only is she an outstanding teacher of students, she is also an outstanding teacher of teachers,” Ezell said. “The community and parents have so much respect for her, and her former students love to come back and see her.”
The 14-year educator and National Board Certified Teacher has led district training in gifted education and board certification.
“I don’t view it as being a leader,” she said. “That title sounds so big. I try to be involved, and that has evolved into a leadership role.”
Second-grade student Paris Morris, 8, said “there is so much” she enjoys about Harris’ class.
“I think she is a great teacher,” she said. “We do a lot of fun work in here.”