Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
Kenzie Harris: I am a first-year teacher at Bragg Middle School. I teach 6th grade U.S. History, and I am also the cheerleading coach. My husband’s name is Hunter Harris, and we have been married for almost two years. We have a goldendoodle named Honey, and we are currently expecting a baby girl in August. We both grew up in the Gardendale area and attended Bragg Middle School and Gardendale High School. When I was growing up, I didn’t necessarily always want to be a teacher. When I was very young, I just wanted to be a “superstar” (who doesn’t?), but once I got into upper-elementary school I began “playing teacher” in all of my free time at home. I would “teach” my younger sister what I was currently learning in school.
Once I got to Bragg, I had wonderful history teachers who are actually all still here, and are now my co-workers. Lisa Hyde, Sabrina Porrill, and Elisa Handley were phenomenal teachers that really made the history come to life, and I began dreaming of becoming just like them one day. For the first time, I was extremely passionate about a specific subject in school. That passion continued through my high school years where I also had wonderful history teachers. That passion, paired with my dream of becoming a teacher, led to my decision to pursue a degree in Secondary Education to teach Social Studies. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with this degree from the University of North Alabama.
Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Kenzie Harris: My favorite part of being a teacher is interacting with the students. Being a teacher is so eye-opening to the vastly different lives that each of my students live. Each of my students have a story that is so valuable and important and being able to remind them of that when they personally do not believe it themselves is so rewarding.
Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself “this is why I teach?”
Kenzie Harris: When I can remind a student of their worth when they have forgotten. When I am teaching a specific era of U.S. History, and I see their eyes light up as they make the connection from what was happening then to what is happening present-day. When a student is having such a bad day and they choose to come talk to me about it. When students want to talk to me about their likes, dislikes, interests, etc. because they genuinely care about my opinion. All of these moments are why I teach. I believe everyone has been put on this earth to make a difference, and my hope is that I can make a difference in the lives of my students each year.
Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
Kenzie Harris: I have learned that teaching is not just about the lesson-plans, paperwork, standards, discipline, emails, parent conferences, classroom management, etc. The relationships you are able to build with your students is what truly matters and what always makes the difference. I’ve always loved this quote from Maya Angelou that said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”. I have to remind myself of this daily because sometimes the endless demands of being a teacher can distract me from why I am doing this in the first place- to make a difference.
Treye Hanner: If you had one wish for something special for your classroom, what would it be?
Kenzie Harris: If I could wish for something special for my classroom, it would be a class-set of headphones for their Chromebooks. Technology has become such a vital part of the classroom, especially since the pandemic. The use of headphones/earbuds for students to be able to read along with books on their Chromebooks via MyOn, work through their i-Ready pathway, listen to historical articles, watch informational videos on historical events, etc. is so beneficial.