My Winthrop Experience

Robert Harris '12
Residence: Columbia, South Carolina
Degree: Human development and family studies (formerly family and consumer sciences)
Occupation: Middle-school teacher

If an opportunity doesn't initially present itself, keep trying. That's how Robert Harris '12 approached his career path fresh out of college, and it's clearly paid off: Harris was one of five finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year in March 2018. 

When the Gadsden, South Carolina, native earned his degree from Winthrop University in family and consumer sciences (now known as human development and family studies), he returned to the Richland County School District One area to look for a job. While nothing was available at the time, he began substitute teaching, and a year later, started working as an administrative assistant for a principal.

Then, opportunity came knocking in the form of a family and consumer sciences teacher position at Hand Middle School. Harris teaches grades sixth-eighth and treats his classroom as an innovation center, with his students being the learning team and he their facilitator.

Harris decided to attend Winthrop after hearing his U.S. history teacher and student council advisor, a 1999 graduate, talk about her experience here.

"She was very passionate about her experiences and time at Winthrop," Harris said. "What intrigued me even more was her appreciation of Winthrop's diversity, academics and student life. In addition to that, Winthrop's long-standing tradition of academic excellence, specifically in the College of Education, Sport, and Human Sciences, helped me realize Winthrop was a great choice. After I visited, I immediately connected with the staff and campus, and became excited about the opportunity to complete my undergraduate work at Winthrop."

Harris joined Emerging Leaders and participated in many clubs and organizations, including the Multicultural Student Council and the Winthrop Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. He also served as president of the Association of Ebonites.

Harris fondly remembers Kelly James, a former sociology professor.

"She was very influential to me during my time at Winthrop," he said. "Her classes taught us how to live our truth. She made content meaningful, relevant and engaging. I model my teaching style after hers and have seen great success because of it!"

Harris incorporates that emphasis on community service and leadership in his classroom on a daily basis. S.C. Teacher of the Year judges noted his activism, including his service as a mentor and leader in district and state-wide events and participation in Profound Gentleman Recruitment Day. He was also named Palmetto Citizens Youth Financial Educator of the Year and District Teacher of the Year.

He's currently pursuing a doctoral degree in curriculum instruction at the University of South Carolina.

"I have aspirations to be a principal, superintendent and ultimately, state superintendent of education," he said.