Getting Personal: Linda Harris

Getting Personal: Linda Harris

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 63-year-old Linda Harris chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood. She just retired as the principal at Judah Christian High School. This year, she had a dream role, the mayor in 'Bye Bye Birdie.' Harris will teach fifth grade at the school next year before retiring from the school district for good and is just starting to enjoy her summer — including a trip to San Antonio.

What has it meant to you to be principal?

I have genuinely gained more, as a person, than I have given. The colleagues I have worked with, the families I have known and the students I have loved and cared for are now part of the fabric of what makes me ... me.

Do you have a favorite memory there?

I probably would have one for every year (but that would take more time than either of us has), but the one that is freshest in my mind is the "gift" of an office filled with balloons (1,200 balloons to be exact) from the senior class that greeted me on my last "official" Monday morning as principal. It was a thing of beauty! I also had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico with several of our graduating classes at their end-of-high-school missions trip.

How did you get started in education?

I was a first-grade teacher at Community Christian School in Savoy (my first teaching job), and at the end of that five-year period, we decided to merge with the high school of Judah Christian (they were meeting at Webber Street Church of Christ) to become Judah Christian Schools, and we moved to the Prospect location at that time. I taught upper elementary and junior high during the first few years we were at the Prospect location; then I left and homeschooled my own two children (and 10-12 others) for the next four to five years before returning to Judah, this time, as the assistant principal.

What have you learned from this experience?

As a Christian, this "Judah journey" has taught me so much about the love and compassion of Christ, the valuable role that suffering plays in my life, and reinforced that my only hope is in Christ. I continue to work at surrendering my own plans and desires to the will of one who is greater, and I know that my calling to Judah as been a large part of growth in these areas of my life.

Have you also learned from your students?

The Puerto Rico trips that our seniors take have always been a great time to connect with our students on a more personal level and to watch them share generously with people that they have never known. I get the joy of seeing them in a different context and culture than our daily school culture, a beautiful and worthwhile experience indeed!

And now you're in musical theater?

Growing up, I always played in the band (flute), but our high school did not provide opportunities for musical theater, and I ALWAYS wanted to experience that. This year, I was asked to join our high school cast in "Bye Bye Birdie" (thanks, Mrs. McDaniel for seeing that hidden talent and desire) and played the role of the mayor. This is a switch from the original production, where the mayor is a man, but for my role as mayor, I joined the "mayor and his wife" into one character, and that seemed to work. It was a blast. Now, I can check that off my list:)

Tell us something few people know about you.

I am a Southerner by birth, born in Louisiana.

As principal, what time did you typically get up? What did you do the first hour of the morning?

Rise at 5:45, so I could be at Judah by 7. First hour is spent getting ready, eating a bit of breakfast and driving to school (as of January, I am driving from Tolono). I like the 20-minute drive; it gives me time to be still and pray before the business of the day begins.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

Happily married to the same man for almost 45 years, still the love of my life.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

I can't honestly think of any "thing" that I couldn't live without. My relationships with my family and friends are precious to me, but they are not possessions.What is your favorite book ever?

"The Glorious Pursuit," by Gary Thomas.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

We have visited so many beautiful places in Europe, but I still have a longing to travel to New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland. These are the locations for some of the most beautiful, inspiring films ever.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Zelda, our miniature schnauzer: beautiful, silky, silver-haired; I loved her best because she was the dog we had while my kids were in junior high/high school. I loved her because they did!

What's your favorite sports team?

Besides every Judah team, I really love the Boston Red Sox.

What would you order for your last meal?

Anything that included homemade bread! Even a grilled cheese on homemade bread is a delicacy.

Who are your favorite musicians, and why?

Favorite musician is singer-songwriter Noah Michael Samson Harris; my son is a poet/musician. Just about everything he writes makes me either laugh or cry; nothing he writes leaves me without a response.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

I can't chose just one — my wedding day, the births of my children and grandchildren — these are all beautiful moments in my life.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

Well, this will sound trite, but it's Jesus. He lived a life of love and sacrifice, like no other, and he had other options. He chose the path he walked, for the sake of others (like me).

What personality trait do you most hate in other people?

Selfishness.

Most hate in yourself?

Selfishness.

What's your favorite quote?

From D.A. Carson, "For the Love of God": "People do not drift toward holiness, we drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?

Other than baby-sitting (about 50 cents an hour back then), my first job was teaching first grade at Community Christian School in Savoy back in 1982. I think I made around $8,000 for the entire year.

What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?

Over 20 years ago, I decided to return to Judah and begin this work as principal. I had taught elementary and junior high for a number of years, home-schooled my children and a few others, and just felt it was time to get back into the school system I loved. We prayed, the offer came ... and I responded and have not regretted that decision.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I pray — for peace and calm to flood my thoughts and for God's grace to fill my mouth, so I can be an instrument of peace in the middle of the storm (even if that is just my own personal storm).

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Education, People

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