Educator, Sarah Harris, promotes individuality, but a sense of community is always present in her classroom. As a special education teacher, Harris is working diligently to provide students with quality education, despite the atypical approach to learning that is taking place this year, due to the pandemic.
Harris has been selected as the Racine County Eye Educator of the Week because of her unwavering commitment to students and their educational paths. She also firmly believes in her students even though they have different learning abilities.
“This is where I am meant to be,” says Harris.
This line of work is where Harris has naturally been drawn to help, but she also has her grandmothers to thank for getting her interested in the field. They were both heavily involved in different community agencies that assisted those with disabilities.
Becoming an educator was a journey, but one she wouldn’t change for the world.
A Book of Knowledge
Harris has always been passionate about her own education. She first attended Gateway Technical College earning a degree in Social Work. Her studies continued at Lakeland University earning degrees in Education and Psychology. Then at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, she focused her studies learning about cognitive disabilities and emotional behavioral disabilities.
Even with much experience and learning opportunities, nothing could have ever prepared teachers for what this year would bring. While most of RUSD has been online, Harris has already been in school with students. This is due to the needs of students who are neurodiverse or have cognitive impairments.
Going the Extra Mile
Kelly Hoaglund-Zumstein, a School Psychologist, who nominated Harris for the Educator of the Week says, “She is always so positive for her students despite any challenges or obstacles thrown her way. She develops strong relationships with her students, is a strong advocate for them, and helps them to make gains beyond what most would be able to do. She believes in her students.”
Even when the going has got tough, Harris has risen to the occasion. Her heart is with her students and it’s why she’s motivated to give them the best education possible.
Harris says, “it has been different and one of the most rigorous years in my career, but starting day one, we have been a family. Students can count on me. I want them to feel like they are in a place where they know it is always okay.”
She spends enormous amounts of time working so that she can best assist the children she is teaching. Harris has made sure to build a strong connection with her students this year. She has done so by dropping off handwritten letters to students, spending Wednesdays with students, and providing them with a sense of belonging.
Not only has Harris been a great support to students, but also staff members. Harris is currently mentoring individuals through the RUSD STAR program. This partnership is with the University of Wisconsin – Parkside (UWP).
“This is a post-baccalaureate, initial teacher licensure program leading to a provisional Wisconsin license in cross-categorical special education at the middle childhood-early adolescence level. Following a residency model of teacher preparation, the STAR Program places participants in RUSD special education classrooms as teachers of record for the two-year duration of the program” says UWP.
Harris has been mentoring two different teachers, in addition to her managing her own classroom. She has been nothing short of excellent and continuously offers support to the entire school body.
Hanging onto Hope
Harris has been a light, ray of positivity, and hope for many. While the year has been stressful, Harris has remained optimistic. Her perspective as both a mother and teacher helps her to understand the diverse needs of the children she works with. She understands the dynamic that this school year has brought.
In all the ways that Harris has taught her students, she says, “They have taught me things too.” She loves being involved in the educational journey of her students and getting to be there for them.
Educator of the Week Nominations
It’s educators like Sarah Harris who make a positive impact in the Racine community. If you know an educator who has made a difference, nominate them to be the next Racine County Eye Educator of the Week.