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Golden Apple: Lincoln Southwest teacher leaves a legacy

Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 3:14 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Many of us remember a favorite teacher who made an impact. And that can be said of Elaine Harris at Lincoln Southwest High School. It was a big deal to get a seat in her Spanish class. And now, after 25 years of teaching, Harris is closing that chapter.

We surprised Harris via Zoom a few days before she was set to retire. Many teachers and staff at Lincoln Southwest High School gathered in the commons area or zoomed in to watch this moment. Harris was nominated three times for this honor.

“Oh my goodness thank you so much,” said Harris. “I’m crying, too. I’m supposed to be out to lunch!”

We asked Elaine if she’d rather have this or go out to lunch.

“Let’s do this, please!”

“I’m a little bit unconventional. So I’m frankly shocked, but honored,” said Harris.

Unconventional, because Harris came to teaching later in life, after staying home to raise her own children. She helped open the doors at Lincoln Southwest in 2002.

“I watch this (Golden Apple Award) all the time, and think wow, it would be really cool to get this someday,” said Harris. “A lot of times we don’t hear the good things, we only hear the bad things. And it’s just really, really an honor truly.”

Former student Bridger Corkill said Harris’s joyous energy was infectious, and her class was a highlight of many of his high school days. Many students would change their schedules just to get a seat in Harris’s class.

“Well, either that, or they want to get out really fast,” chuckled Harris.

Aaron Finley is the Lincoln Southwest Language Department Chair. Finley said that Harris tells young people what they need to hear, and not always what they want to hear.

“They were lucky to have Elaine,” said Finley.

And now, after 25 years of teaching, Elaine Harris is retiring at the end of December, in part due to the pandemic. We asked her what she’d like her legacy to be.

“That I’m a happy person, and that I love kids, and I love learning,” said Harris. “It’s a wonderful group of people here (Southwest). I’m honored to teach with such wonderful people.”

Harris then took off her mask so we could all see her. She joked about not having to wear lipstick anymore under a mask.

Being a great teacher means a lot to the world, and 10/11 and Doane University appreciate teachers like Harris. And so do her students and staff at Lincoln Southwest. Harris was humbled and happy as her co-workers gave her a round of applause, in person and on zoom.

Doane University College of Education
Doane University College of Education(Doane University College of Education)

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