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College of Education

Q&A with Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year, Melanie Harris of H.E. Corley Elementary

Harris’ leadership philosophy is based on service.


Q: Tell us how you chose a career in education?

A: “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. There was not any other profession that I considered. My mother and grandmother were educators, so it was a natural choice. I do not recall deciding, it is just what I wanted to do. I’ve never seen myself doing anything else.”


Q: How did you cultivate this dream?

A: “I participated in the Teacher Cadet Program in high school, and in college during my early childhood education classes, I enjoyed partnering with local educators and interning in the school. After college, I felt the need to return home and began teaching fifth grade.”


Q: What is your favorite thing about being an educator?

A: “I enjoy being around children and watching them learn. After becoming an administrator, I love being part of instructional leadership. It’s my jam! I was inspired by my family’s servant leadership, and that is a big part of who I am. Giving back, acting in the service of others and wanting my fellow educators to excel are in the fabric of who I am. My grandmother taught for almost 50 years. Her dedication drives me daily.”


Q: Did you find it difficult to make the move from the classroom to administration?

A: “Yes and no. I began as the administrative assistant principal in the school that I attended as a little girl. This same school is where my grandmother taught for 40 years. It was a full-circle moment for me. Some of the teachers there saw me grow up. The hardest part for me was beginning to lead my mentors. It was a heartwarming time when they supported me and helped me succeed. Some of my childhood classmates sent their children to my school. It was a joy to build that connection with them.”


Q: Tell us about your time at the University of South Carolina.

A: “Before I left the classroom, I began my masters in education administration. It was great to be able to put my classwork into practice immediately. Many of my assignments were in line with what I needed to do for my job. It was great to have a realistic picture of what would make me a successful leader and administrator.”


Q: How did it feel to be named a SCASA Assistant Principal of the Year?

A: “It was a great honor to be nominated, and a wonderful surprise to receive this recognition. To know that my work does not go unnoticed is a joy. It’s truly a collective effort. Our school is a community. When you are facing a long day and putting in extra hours, it’s important to remember that we do it all for the kids.”


Q: What would you like to share about your school?

A: “We always say, ‘Great happens here at H.E. Corley.’ We have amazing people, and we are one big family. They put in the hard work every day for our kids. Our school’s focus on academics, social-emotional health and great leadership are just some of the ways we set our students up for success. We want them to be learners for life in all of their endeavors. We love and grow our students. Every time I get a smile or high five in the hallway, I know my students feel my love for them.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.