From teacher to district leader
March 17, 2021
As an educator and a parent, Harris had a unique and pivotal perspective with the announcement of Portage’s new DEI position last fall. “Being a parent first then coming into the district as a teacher gave me a little bit of insight as well as just experience with how our daughters as women of color navigate this school district. When I first saw the position I was surprised by the district’s decision to make this decision to make this stance for this type of work,” he said.
As a father of children in Portage, a black man, and a teacher who came to education in what he described as an “unconventional yet very intentional” way, Harris had some immediate thoughts. “There is always a little bit of wondering in terms of like ‘do they really mean to commit to this type of work?’ I think that is kind of the PC culture whether it be corporate or education,” he explained. “Standing for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and ableism, and culture for all this stuff. I was curious enough to believe that this position could actually work.”
Once he had faith in the position and the work behind it, he knew had to contribute and apply. The application process strengthened his belief that the work was possible and the district’s intent was true. “I can see that they are down for this. They need this work, they really want to transform the culture and community that is Portage,” he shared. “That is not to say this is a bad community, they want to be progressive, they want to push and definitely change student lives as we kind of venture on this type of work. I’m extremely surprised, I’m extremely motivated, I’m extremely humbled, and I’m extremely supported as well as we start to go on this journey.”
That’s not to say that the decision to leave the classroom was easy. “ It was bittersweet because I knew I was going to have to leave my kids.That was the biggest decision for me, what was this going to look like for my young five group,” said Harris. “This was literally their first experience with school. Having a young five child of my own, I know what she feels about school and how she interacts with her classmates. I was lucky enough to create some really special relationships. It was a no brainer. I’ve done this work before, I feel confident in knowing I can continue to build relationships with not only staff members but also students and families like we can get this work done.”