By Barbara P. Jacoby
Clark Creek ES STEM Academy teacher Kim Harrison worked in the corporate world for 15 years. She longed for a new experience that would be “personal, creative, and impactful.” Inspired by the idea that teaching would afford her all that and more, she made the switch 17 years ago to great success.
“After a 15-year career in corporate America, I was looking for something that was more personally fulfilling. I always felt a calling to teach and, after the birth of my son, it felt like the right time to take the leap,” she said. “Best decision ever!”
Selected as her school’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, Harrison leads its AIM program for gifted students. She also serves as co-leader of the student morning news crew, the math competition club, schoolwide quarterly creative challenges, and the school’s core STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) committee.
As a leader in the school’s STEM programming, Harrison focuses her AIM lessons on the “4 Cs” crucial to STEM learning success: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
“Everything we do centers around these 21st century skills,” she said. “When we connect these skills to what we’re doing in school, students begin to understand why they come to school and why they should demonstrate their best when they are here.”
One of her favorite lessons partnered her third- and fifth-grade students up with Clark Creek special needs students and the Etowah HS football team. They worked together to raise money for, design, and install a sensory sidewalk at Clark Creek.
The third graders and the football team raised $3,000 for the project through lemonade stands. The football players at Etowah, which is the high school Clark Creek students attend when older, helped the third graders design a business plan, build the stands, and staff them to serve Clark Creek’s 1,200 students. They raised the funds through sales and corporate partner donations.
The fifth graders then used the funds to design and paint the sensory sidewalk in collaboration with special needs students who would benefit from its use. The AIM students are working on additional sensory projects this school year.
“Hands down, I love being a witness to the growth and development of my students. As a homeroom teacher, I was so proud to look back at the end of the year and marvel at how much my students had changed,” she said. “Now, my job as the lead gifted specialist allows me to witness that over many years, which is even more miraculous.”
What can parents do to help their child be as successful as possible at school?
“Have high expectations for behavior and learning and hold students accountable,” Harrison said. “Be an active collaborator with the teachers your child spends time with. Assume that everyone is operating in the best interest of your child. Raising children is challenging; if we present a united front, only great things will happen for kids.”