Well-known building substitute reflects on time spent at Blue Valley, fond memories


Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

“Happy birthday, Mrs. Harris.”
This has been a common saying heard around Blue Valley in the past few years.
Building substitute Deborah Harris’ actual birthday is on Jan. 2 — not even a school day.
“The ‘Happy Birthday’ thing got started last year by [2012 graduates] Justin Fulks and Matt Floyd,” Harris said. “Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. They started saying it every time they saw me, and at first, I said, ‘No, no it’s not my birthday,’ and then I just thought later that it was just easier to smile and say, ‘Thank you.’ My line now is ‘Everyday is like a birthday at Blue Valley High School.’”
Harris started as a paraprofessional at BV in 1992. She then started substituting and became a main building substitute in 2000.
“I basically do the administrative work of taking roll and trying to keep the class on task for whatever lesson plans the teacher has left me,” she said. “That’s when I’m doing what they call a short-term or one-day job.”
Harris has also been a long-term substitute.
“That is a little more intense,” Harris said. “Only because you have to prepare your lesson plans, grade papers and try to keep at least a few weeks ahead of the students in terms of what you’re teaching.”
Junior Grant Dickerson wishes Harris a happy birthday every time he sees her.
“I think Mrs. Harris is a pretty intelligent person for being able to sub for pretty much any class on demand,” Dickerson said. “She also cares about all of the students and is very accepting of me wishing her a happy birthday every day.”
Harris said she enjoys the interactions with the students.
“I would describe my relationship with the students as a very fun one,” she said.
Because Harris is often in the building and everyone knows who she is, math teacher Robin Lerner said she thinks the students get a better opportunity to get to know Harris.
“Because [Harris and the students] get to know each other better than other substitutes and students would, that makes it a better relationship,” she said. “She also gets to see more of the relationships of who’s friends with whom than I might necessarily get to see.”
Dickerson gave Harris a valentine on Valentine’s Day.
“It was a picture of a Care Bear,” he said. “She taped it to her lunch box, so ever since then, we have been pretty tight.”
Lerner said Harris always strives to teach the lessons how the teacher would want them to be taught.
“She has subbed for me a couple of times in math, and she always wants to know ‘Am I doing it right?,”’ she said. “She wants to teach as if she were the teacher. Everyone knows that if she’s there, she is going to do the best job that she can.”
Lerner said she thinks the staff and students have a certain respect for what Harris does.
“Mrs. Harris is there when we need her to be there,” she said. “She always gets done what we need her to get done.”
Lerner said she and Harris have a very interesting relationship.
“One December, we were in line at the holiday luncheon that the staff has, and we were discussing the snow, and I said it reminds me of Iowa,” Lerner said. “[Harris] said, ‘You lived in Iowa?,’ and I said yes. We figured out that we lived in the same area, and I asked her if she knew where Colo., [Iowa] is. She said that her mom used to teach first grade there. I asked her what her name was and figured out that she was my first grade teacher. It’s just one of those ‘what a small world’ things.”
Since then, Harris’ mom has been down for a couple of visits and met up with Lerner.
Harris said the rest of the staff have also been very friendly.
“One school I was a para for, it was my first week there and I sat down at a table for lunch,” she said. “Some teachers there told me, ‘This is the teacher’s table. You have to sit over there.’ I’ve never had something like that happen at Blue Valley.”
Harris said her most memorable moment at BV was when all of the students came together in 1998 when three girls were killed in a car accident in front of the school.
“The thing that I remember the most was coming in that day, and all of the kids were just lined up throughout the whole halls just hanging on to each other and holding hands,” she said. “It said so much. To me it was a moment of coming together as a school.”