October is National Principals Month! Our principals work hard each and every day to promote student well-being and support our exceptional staff. Throughout the month we will be featuring some of the principals you know and love and highlight what makes them unique.
Tim Harris just started his second year with the Bellevue School District and at Interlake High School, but this passionate leader has a wealth of experience in education. Originally from Tacoma, Harris attended the University of Oregon and a junior college in California before returning to Washington to attend the UW. He walked on to the football team and went on to play two seasons with the Huskies.
After graduating from the UW, Harris worked at Echo Glen Children’s Center – a facility for young offenders operated by the state of Washington as part of their juvenile rehabilitation program. “While I was there, I understood why I wanted to work with kids,” says Harris. He was really struck by seeing students who did not have anyone to show up for them – even on their birthdays and holidays. “They didn’t have the ability to enjoy their family – to live and to love and to laugh with them.” It sparked a calling for Harris, who describes his family as important to him at his core. “My family is the reason I’m thriving,” says Harris. He credits his parents, wife and kids with helping him to build a foundation for his life and who he is. Harris is clearly a leader and educator who values compassion, respect and integrity.
Because of his love of sports, Harris started his career in education as a paraeducator and basketball coach. He relocated to San Antonio where he taught and coached for four years. Later, he overcame a personal and professional challenge when he changed schools and did not have the opportunity to continue coaching. “My identity as a teacher completely changed for the better,” says Harris. “For the first time, I had to focus on my teaching and make sure it was rock solid. I went all in – I worked, I learned, I struggled.” At the end of his fourth year in Texas he had met his district’s goals for student success. “That really wowed me – it gave me self-efficacy that I can teach and I can shape the way kids see education.”
Harris is driven by both the past and the future, learning from the experiences of this parents and other family members. “Growing up and being black in America – the struggles, the challenges, the fear and anxiety – what that felt like and looked like, that’s part of my why.” And there are also his personal experiences and the struggles Harris has gone through – which he describes as just a fraction of what others have seen. “I struggle with my why,” says Harris who says he feels pushback and has been met with cynicism. “When I say these things, people feel challenged,” he says. But Harris is optimistic. “My hope is that people in the community, when they see folks of color, that they see them as one of them. That they see people of color as a trusted and safe adult, see them as leaders and people who make a difference. That we are here because we are capable, qualified and passionate about what we do.” Harris recognizes that culture and understanding are changing. “I just want people to look at me and say ‘Dang – here’s this successful man of color who is a leader.’ I think that’s important. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me doing these things.” His experiences are why equity is a center of focus for him at Interlake.