Hollis Hand Elementary School names Allison Harris Teacher of the Year

Published 9:00 am Friday, November 11, 2022

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Hollis Hand Elementary School Teacher of the Year Allison Harris began her first job as a paraprofessional in a special needs classroom.

From that experience, Harris decided to get her master’s degree in special education and became a teacher.

“I felt a great sense of accomplishment working with these kids,” Harris said. “Often, people don’t think they are capable of doing certain things that general education kids can do. No kid works the same, all my children work differently and learn differently, but they’re capable of learning.”

Harris said a lot of times kids come into the classroom with low expectations.

“Someone wants to do everything for them. Cut up every piece of their food, unwrap everything, made sure they open their milk on their own and that’s life skills,” Harris said. “We’re trying to teach the children in the room that aren’t going to be able to do math and reading, life skills.”

Harris said some of their parents are surprised at what they learn and the life skills they can do on their own.

“We don’t want them to think or treat them like they’re helpless — because they’re not, they can learn,” Harris said.

Harris said she likes figuring out ways each of her students learns and incorporates different programs to better help the children learn.

“It’s really neat how it works. I had one student whose mother cried because they had never read a word before,” Harris said. “They won’t be able to sound out the words, but this program helped them figure out and know the words.”

Harris said the most fulfilling part of her job is seeing her student’s progress.

“It generally takes a long time to get that progress and to see it,” Harris said. “You’re not going to see it as quickly as you would in a child that’s in general education, but to see them making progress is very rewarding.”

When Harris isn’t teaching in the classroom, she’s giving swimming lessons (in the summer) and spending time outside with her husband, Scott, and their children, Spencer, Wilson, Sidney and Eli.

In 2021, tragedy struck Harris’ family when her son, John David, passed away in a car accident.

“These kids have given me a reason to get up, and it takes my mind off the grieving, which has been a big blessing for me in the past year and a half,” Harris said. “My mom was like ‘maybe you should take some time off,’ but I said no. I don’t want to take any time off, I want to be doing what I enjoy doing and these kids have helped me as much as, hopefully, I am helping them.”

She said after her son’s passing, coming to work has given her more of a purpose.

“These kids helped me heal,” Harris said. “They don’t know it of course, but it’s the truth. My children need to see me be the best I can be, and that’s what I try to do with these kids.”