Michelle Harrison: September Sparks Toyota Teacher of the Month

Michelle Harrison isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty for the sake of education.

The second grade teacher has been in education for 22 years and has worked at Holy Trinity Catholic School, her current school, for the past decade. She discovered her passion for teaching as a gymnastics instructor in the late ‘80s.

“I loved working with children,” she said.

Prior to teaching at Holy Trinity, Harrison taught at Britton’s Neck Elementary and Middle in Marion County and Loris Middle.

Originally from New York, the teacher moved to South Carolina to work with students in low-income areas.

“I met my husband and ended up staying here,” she said.

Harrison is certified to teach kindergarten through eighth grade students and has worked with all age groups during her career. She taught middle school science for six years at Holy Trinity. The school recently transitioned to pre-K through 5th grade only, so she now teaches full day second grade to a class of 12.

“Second grade is a very important year for Catholics because that is when you receive your First Penance and Reconciliation and First Holy Communion,” Harrison said of the faith education she provides.

Her favorite subject to teach is science.

“I’m a hands-on teacher,” she said. “It’s constructive chaos.”

Harrison runs the Lego Robotics Club, Simple Machines Lego Club and Green Team at Holy Trinity. She is working to get her school Green Steps certified through the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. Students have the opportunity to compost their food scraps on campus, and there is a greenhouse on site that is used for many science lessons.

One of Harrison’s favorite lessons to teach is called “Seeds to Shoreline.” The lesson involves salt marsh and estuary health and includes the harvesting, germinating and planting of Spartina (salt marsh grass) seeds. Harrison takes her students to Huntington Beach State Park or Hobcaw Barony for a restoration day, which includes meeting with scientists from Coastal Carolina University and Clemson University.

“The kids love it,” she said.

Harrison’s students plant herbs in the greenhouse each year and bring them home in May as Mother’s Day presents.

Currently, her class has a worm compost.

“We check it every Friday to see what they have eaten and look at their castings,” she said.

Harrison said that teaching via computer during the COVID-19 school shutdown was challenging. She assembled take-home projects for her students, kits to make their own rollercoaster or merry-go-round, and delivered them to their homes while school was closed. She is glad that Holy Trinity is open five days a week for in-person learning. Desks are spaced out and all students wear masks in her class of 12.

Harrison’s seventh grade science teacher Martha Shaw and third grade teacher Jean Philpot were two educators who inspired her.

“When I was student teaching as a college student, I got to go back and teach with Mrs. Philpot,” she said.

Harrison was recently selected to complete Palmetto Environmental Education Certification training. She applied for and was chosen to take the two-year course, which will be done virtually and in-person with on-site workshops to teach an appreciation of nature with a hands-on experience in South Carolina.

Outside of work, Harrison loves gardening and using the fruits of her harvest to prepare meals for her friends and family. Favorite summer recipes include homemade spaghetti sauce and bruschetta.

Harrison is grateful to her supportive family.

“I’ve been married to my loving husband Jody for 19 years,” she said. “We have two beautiful boys. Taylor is 17 and Jack is 14. We are so proud of the young men they have become.”

Teacher of the Month is sponsored by Sparks Toyota. Nominate your favorite teachers online at myhorrynews.com/contests.

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