|Two longtime instructors retire from Perkins County Schools|
By Jan Rahn
It’s time. After considering retirement for several years, Don Harris has finally decided to end his career as math instructor at Perkins County High School.
He also coached golf for 20 years and has co-coached mock trial for the last three years.
Harris said he has come full circle at the school.
He began his teaching career in the fall of 1971. At that time it was Perkins County High School with the grade school in a separate district. When the two schools came together, Grant Public Schools emerged and remained under that name until another merger with Wheatland in 2006—and then Perkins County High School resurfaced—meaning Harris started and finished his 38-year teaching career in the same building under the same name.
He looks forward to the free time he will have once school dismisses for the summer, knowing he won’t have to cram everything into 90 days.
Number one on his list is golf. He also hopes to travel and spend time with family.
“As anyone who knows me already knows, golf will continue to be a large part of my free time,” said Harris. “That won’t change, but I will have time during the school year to play.”
“I had targeted this year to be my final year several years ago, but I didn’t make a firm decision until shortly after this past Christmas,” said Harris.
He had never made a secret of his consideration to retire, but put it off because there were things he felt he could accomplish.
Now is the right time as far as the school’s perspective, said Harris.
“Education is changing and I am not always comfortable with those changes,” he said. “The way I do things is different than the way most newer math teachers teach. I am not critical of them, it’s just that I learned and taught and am comfortable with some other ways. I know that there will be changes after I am gone. This is not necessarily bad and may even be necessary—I’ve tried to prepare my students for those changes.”
Harris will miss the students. He said he has enjoyed the relationships he has been able to form with the kids after teaching them for several years—unlike in a larger school where a teacher might instruct them for a year or two and never see them again.
Harris said he has enjoyed teaching students throughout high school and has watched their development.
“I also believe that I’ve had some positive impact on some students because I truly got to know them, know their interests, their strengths, and their personalities,” he said. I’ve been fortunate to have some students later tell me that I did impact them in a positive way. Hearing that is the greatest reward any teacher can receive.”
Harris will miss the other teachers that he has built some lasting friendships with through the years. They’ve had a lot of good times, helped each other through some difficult times, and he said he feels blessed to have them as friends.
“Without them, I would not have wanted to stay as long as I did.” When he first began, he taught Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, a senior math class consisting of one semester of trigonometry and one semester of math analysis, and a psychology class. The psychology class was dropped in 1975, and he added geometry, a semester class in calculus and a class called computer problem solving.
Harris grew up in Gordon, graduating in 1966. He attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in the College of Arts and Sciences with a major in math and minors in English, psychology and political science.
He obtained his teaching certificate from Chadron State College in 1971 and then attended Kearney State College during the summers of 1975, 1976 and 1977, graduating with a Masters in math education.
Harris’ wife Karon is head dispatcher with the Perkins County Sheriff’s Department. Their son Zach is a UNL graduate in computer science and is trying to find employment as a computer programmer.
Harris will utilize his free time to visit his two sisters more often, one in Iowa and the other in Gordon.
Mary Kent—2nd Grade
With 34 years of experience behind her, second grade teacher Mary Kent will retire when the 2009-10 school term ends in May.
Kent began her teaching career in Perkins County in 1976 when she began at Wheatland School in Madrid.
She and her husband, Ron, moved to back to his roots in Grant so he could work at Adams Lumber, a business owned and operated by his parents.
With a dual major in human development and elementary education from the University of Nebraska, Kent found a teaching job in Elsie.
She has taught second and fourth grades, some preschool and adults. She taught one year in Omaha and one year in Lincoln before moving to Grant. Kent has also taught some summer courses in math and science for ESU.
“My favorite thing about elementary education, of course, is the kids,” said Kent. “I always enjoyed trying to create lessons to reach all styles of learning and still make it fun.”
The Humphrey native said she decided to retire this year because she is ready to have more freedom and see her family. Retirement will also create time for her hobbies of golf, travel, bridge, sewing, quilting and reading. She also wants to get more involved in activities in the community and at church.
Two daughters and one granddaughter live in eastern Nebraska—undoubtedly the target of her travel.
Daughter Jessica and husband Tom Neimann have a daughter Ellie, two daughter Kristina manages Enterprise Rent A Car in Lincoln.