High standards pay off for Teacher of the Year Ainsley Harris
It’s a good thing Ainsley Harris’ principal waited until the end of the day to tell her the good news.
“I was a wreck,” said Harris, of the smiles and tears of joy she shed when she learned she was the Vallejo City Unified School District Teacher of the Year.
Harris formally accepted her plaque at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
A fourth-grade teacher, Harris has been at Cooper Elementary School for the last four years.
Harris didn’t always know whether she wanted to go into education. As a student at San Diego State University, a friend encouraged her to look into teaching.
“I just did it. I got my credentials and I never looked back,” said Harris, who grew up in Marin County and still lives there today.
Because at the time she was in her early 20s and herself not too far removed from high school, Harris decided to teach at the elementary level rather than the secondary schools.
Her first job after getting her credentials from Dominican University a decade ago was at Patterson Elementary School, where she was encouraged to apply by another friend and former teacher at that campus.
As an educator, she’s encouraged group work with her students and said her poster-festooned classroom — with little desks set up in fours — usually has a buzz of noise as students work together.
“Kids are talking, which to me is a good thing,” Harris said, adding that she makes sure the students stay on task and are talking about their assignments.
Harris holds both herself and her students to high standards.
“If you believe in your students and you give them high expectations and you put new opportunities for them, and they succeed at them, it makes them grow,” Harris said.
Achieving Teacher of the Year had always been something at the back of Harris’ mind, but nothing that really dominated her everyday life for the last 10 years in the classroom. But when Cooper Principal Susan Walls pulled Harris into her office, she was unable to hide her excitement.
“She just told me I was nominated, and I started crying,” Harris said.
Harris, a single mother, said most of her free time is spent raising her 3-year-old son. She loves to cook, but hates the precision of baking. Harris said she wasn’t sure whether she’d want to try working at a high school level — or even try her hand as an administrator.
Perhaps she’ll follow in the footsteps of Solano Middle School teacher Angelo Bracco, who last year was not only the Vallejo Teacher of the Year, but also Solano County’s and California’s top educator.
But Harris is sure of at least one thing.
“I love my classroom, and we’re in Room 24,” said a smiling Harris, whose students made sure to ask her for a shout-out in the newspaper.
Contact Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LanzCBanes.