Iris Harris' class is a tight bunch, literally and figuratively. Due to space issues, her 24 students pack their desks snuggly into the center of the classroom.
The friendly confines breed a family atmosphere in the room, that Harris plays on. "They really do see each other as brothers and sisters in here. And I'm Momma, Dad, Grand Momma, whoever is the adult that is in their family life."
Harris started teaching 19-years ago, fulfilling a goal to give back. When she was just a 4th grader, her parents passed away. And if not for her 5th grade teacher, she might have been lost. "She just mothered me and because I was dealing with so many emotional things, I kind of fell behind in school and she took me that summer to her personal home and tutored me over the summer and got me caught up so I could move on to middle school with my class."
Now, she uses her position to take students under her wing, students like Luke Ridge. "Last year, I didn't feel like they gave me a chance but with Miss Harris, they treat me like I'm part of the family or something."
Harris' arsenal of bells and whistles keeps her entire class energized. Along with funny phrases like "hippity hop, bunnies," Harris varies the traditional 'raise your hand' when you know the answer, by encouraging students to stand up, give a thumbs up, or sit up straight. Laurelie Holmberg says "we'll be sitting down and it gets tiring, especially after lunch and she makes it really exciting because I guess she wants to pump us up."
Harris also keeps up with her students interests and activities outside of the classroom. Every Friday, they talk about their week -- and clear the air of any grievances.