Her decision was further validated on Tuesday night when she was named Teacher of the Year for the Tupelo Public School District.
“I was born to teach,” Harris said after being presented with the award during a school board meeting at Parkway Elementary School.
Her mother was a teacher for 32 years, and as far back as she can remember, it was the profession she’d always told people she wanted to pursue. That passion was strengthened during her teenage years when she did mission work in low-income neighborhoods and discovered how much she enjoyed teaching the children she met.
“Every day is new,” the Tupelo native said. “I like the flexibility. I love the children. I love the education process. I love seeing the light bulb go off when they learn something.”
Harris and the teacher of the year winners for each of the district’s 12 schools were honored. The Association for Excellence in Education presented each of them with a $250 check. Harris received $1,000 from the nonprofit organization created to support the school district.
“Everyone would love to have her as a teacher,” said Thomas Street Principal Kay Collins. “She is caring, she is on top of things and she is great with all children.”
The 14th-year teacher said she particularly enjoys working with gifted students.
“They’re very bright children and most of them have a lot of energy, but they are not all high-achievers,” she said.
She takes pride in trying to get the intellectually gifted students to reach their potential.
Harris is a National Board Certified Teacher. She received the certification in 2003 and had it renewed in 2012.
“Students are our top priority,” she said.
Individual Teacher of the Year winners for Tupelo schools:
Carver: Wanda Mitchell
ECEC: Melinda Lee
Joyner: Allison Hall
Lawhon: Terry Leigh Clayton
Lawndale: Debbie Walls
Milam: Patsy Griffin
Parkway: Katie Michael
Pierce Street: Cathy Enis
Rankin: Kashauna Pittman
Thomas Street: Tara Harris
Tupelo High: Margaret Rowland
Tupelo Middle: Sam McRae