LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 2, 2019) — Oct. 5 is World Teachers’ Day — a day to celebrate educators who make a difference in students’ lives. For one educator, recognition of the need for more diversity in the classroom led to his calling.
Evander Harris, a University of Kentucky College of Education alumnus, received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Centre College. His goal at the time was to become an engineer — a goal that soon changed.
“My sophomore year of college I took an education class with the first African American male teacher I had ever had, and that opened my eyes to one of the bigger issues in education that I think gets overlooked,” Harris said. “I researched the achievement gap in schools and found that schools with the largest gaps had the least diverse teacher populations. I decided then and there I wanted to help change the narrative for kids who look like me.”
Harris enrolled in a master’s degree program in the UK College of Education to obtain teaching certification. The college offers two master’s degree programs for those who want to teach grades 8-12 — the Master’s of Arts in Secondary Education with Initial Certification for those who want to teach English and social studies, and the Master of Arts in Secondary STEM Education, which prepares students to teach STEM disciplines.
“The master’s program put me around a lot of passionate educators who knew what it meant to be a teacher in Central Kentucky,” Harris said. “All of the professors in the program were invested in changing the face of education — giving me a place to share experiences and hear feedback from other educators about how to become a better teacher.”
Harris is now a teacher at Frederick Douglass High School in Fayette County.
“My goal as a teacher is to provide a space where students are comfortable and willing to learn,” Harris said. “I want to impact kids that come from the same neighborhoods I lived in, had the same home-life that I had, and let them know it’s ok to enjoy school and learning.”
Harris doesn’t only meet his students in the classroom, but on the field as well. At Frederick Douglass he is the wide receiver coach and the JV offensive coordinator for the football team as well as the head coach for the tennis team. Harris also mentors struggling freshmen who are dealing with the transition from middle school to high school.
“I think mentoring is what helps me relate to the students the most,” he said. “They see me everywhere and see how much time I invest in them, which in return makes them invest their time in my classes.”
Harris still keeps in contact with some of his UK College of Education mentors and has gained new mentors from Frederick Douglass.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for," and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.