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Working like her hair’s on fire: Victoria Harris

AMERICUS — When she meets with her Teaching and Learning Department, the message from Victoria Harris is clear —  “We have to work like our hair is on fire,” she tells the meeting of department heads who make up the team. “Our children are too important for us not to have that sense of urgency.”
As associate superintendent of Sumter County Schools, Harris heads this group of education administrators who make sure the teachers get what they need to be good teachers. The team is responsible for translating the many changes that take place in education from the state level at any moment, making sure Sumter County teachers get the information they need to be better teachers. “For the Children” is the statement at the bottom of her e-mail messages, and it is the guiding principal behind everything she does.
“My fight is that every child in the school system has a teacher who is committed to the here and now,” said Harris. “Teachers have to teach with a sense of urgency. We can’t take a day off; every day is important. Our kids deserve a caring committed teacher every day they come in the classroom and that teacher needs to commit from bell to bell.”
In addition to overseeing the leadership team, Harris oversees the team of academic coaches who monitor teachers in the classroom and help them fine-tune their skills.
Before becoming the associate superintendent in 2013, Harris was an assistant principal, then became the principal at Sumter County High School, the first woman so named. When Sumter High merged with Americus High, she became the principal at Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy, then became principal at Staley Middle School where she remained for six years.
While she recognizes that the state mandates that tend to bombard the classroom are often confusing and sometimes unwelcome, her job and the job of her staff is to find the good in them and use that good for the teacher’s benefit.
“The changes are coming to help better the field of education,” she said. “Sometimes the way they are rolled out are not always the best. But as soon as something is introduced, we have to bring teacher leaders and teachers together to roll it out system-wide and get everyone on the same page. Part of what teachers need to know is what the changes are and what is expected of them.”
One of the biggest changes she has seen over the years is the oversight of the success rate of teachers. Now, a teacher is measured by the progress made by each student from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. A teacher can now lose their teaching license if his or her students don’t appear to have progressed.
“There is a greater sense of accountability placed on teachers over the years and that has both a positive and a negative effect,” said Harris. “I think we should all be held accountable, but we should be held accountable in a fair manner.”
Test scores can often be a function of the economic well-being of those being tested. While she recognizes the difficult backgrounds some of the children in the system may come from, she doesn’t think that provides an excuse for teachers not to teach or for students not to learn.
“We may have to work a little harder because some of the kids don’t have what they should have,” said Harris, who lost her father in the military service when she was five years old.
“Education is the key,” she said. “I had great teachers along the way and a great support system at home that preached education. My mom’s long-time friend, Delores Williams, was a teacher and she inspired me.”
Harris attributes much of her success to her grandmother who was the family role model, and especially to her mother, who made sure her daughter’s world always got bigger, taking her on trips across the United States and ensuring that she learned what she needed to learn.
“My mother pushed it and made sure those things happened,” she said. “My mom is not just my mom, but she is my best friend — my biggest advocate and supporter.”
She finds herself teaching her son the same lessons her mother taught her.
“You can do anything you want in life. It’s about choices. You have to get an education and it’s about making the right choices,” she said. “Will you make mistakes — yes, but you can recover from these things.”
Her son recently graduated from the Sumter County School system and received a full ride basketball scholarship to Chattanooga State where he will be studying physical therapy.
“I am so proud of his education in the Sumter County Schools,” said Harris. “I commend every teacher in the system and commend every coach that ever put their hand on my child’s life because they had a lasting impact on him and on us.”

Keys to success in life
Happiness comes from within. There are three places a person should be happy: In the home, in the church, and on the job.

Keys to success in the classroom for teachers
Be fair, firm, and consistent.

Keys to success in the classroom for students
Believe you can do and be anything you want AMERICUS — When she meets with her Teaching and Learning Department, the message from Victoria Harris is clear —  “We have to work like our hair is on fire,” she tells the meeting of department heads who make up the team. “Our children are too important for us not to have that sense of urgency.”
As associate superintendent of Sumter County Schools, Harris heads this group of education administrators who make sure the teachers get what they need to be good teachers. The team is responsible for translating the many changes that take place in education from the state level at any moment, making sure Sumter County teachers get the information they need to be better teachers. “For the Children” is the statement at the bottom of her e-mail messages, and it is the guiding principal behind everything she does.
“My fight is that every child in the school system has a teacher who is committed to the here and now,” said Harris. “Teachers have to teach with a sense of urgency. We can’t take a day off; every day is important. Our kids deserve a caring committed teacher every day they come in the classroom and that teacher needs to commit from bell to bell.”
In addition to overseeing the leadership team, Harris oversees the team of academic coaches who monitor teachers in the classroom and help them fine-tune their skills.
Before becoming the associate superintendent in 2013, Harris was an assistant principal, then became the principal at Sumter County High School, the first woman so named. When Sumter High merged with Americus High, she became the principal at Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy, then became principal at Staley Middle School where she remained for six years.
While she recognizes that the state mandates that tend to bombard the classroom are often confusing and sometimes unwelcome, her job and the job of her staff is to find the good in them and use that good for the teacher’s benefit.
“The changes are coming to help better the field of education,” she said. “Sometimes the way they are rolled out are not always the best. But as soon as something is introduced, we have to bring teacher leaders and teachers together to roll it out system-wide and get everyone on the same page. Part of what teachers need to know is what the changes are and what is expected of them.”
One of the biggest changes she has seen over the years is the oversight of the success rate of teachers. Now, a teacher is measured by the progress made by each student from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. A teacher can now lose their teaching license if his or her students don’t appear to have progressed.
“There is a greater sense of accountability placed on teachers over the years and that has both a positive and a negative effect,” said Harris. “I think we should all be held accountable, but we should be held accountable in a fair manner.”
Test scores can often be a function of the economic well-being of those being tested. While she recognizes the difficult backgrounds some of the children in the system may come from, she doesn’t think that provides an excuse for teachers not to teach or for students not to learn.
“We may have to work a little harder because some of the kids don’t have what they should have,” said Harris, who lost her father in the military service when she was five years old.
“Education is the key,” she said. “I had great teachers along the way and a great support system at home that preached education. My mom’s long-time friend, Delores Williams, was a teacher and she inspired me.”
Harris attributes much of her success to her grandmother who was the family role model, and especially to her mother, who made sure her daughter’s world always got bigger, taking her on trips across the United States and ensuring that she learned what she needed to learn.
“My mother pushed it and made sure those things happened,” she said. “My mom is not just my mom, but she is my best friend — my biggest advocate and supporter.”
She finds herself teaching her son the same lessons her mother taught her.
“You can do anything you want in life. It’s about choices. You have to get an education and it’s about making the right choices,” she said. “Will you make mistakes — yes, but you can recover from these things.”
Her son recently graduated from the Sumter County School system and received a full ride basketball scholarship to Chattanooga State where he will be studying physical therapy.
“I am so proud of his education in the Sumter County Schools,” said Harris. “I commend every teacher in the system and commend every coach that ever put their hand on my child’s life because they had a lasting impact on him and on us.”

Keys to success in life
Happiness comes from within. There are three places a person should be happy: In the home, in the church, and on the job.

Keys to success in the classroom for teachers
Be fair, firm, and consistent.

Keys to success in the classroom for students
Believe you can do and be anything you want through hard work.

Favorite inspiration quote
Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and know that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
through hard work.

Favorite inspiration quote
Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and know that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.