Position: Director, District & Alumni Partnerships,
Company: Teach For America
Laurel native Elizabeth Harris- known to her friends as “Biz”- says she always wanted to be an attorney until she worked for a public defender in Washington D.C. and realized she wanted to fight for one of the biggest issues facing the defendants: education.
“I’m committed to helping all Mississippi schools become the best in the world,” Harris says. “I know that education matters and that, although some kids are excelling in our systems, not all students are getting what they need.”
After high school, Harris studied political science and public policy at Washington & Lee University then earned a master of divinity with a focus on education from Emory University.
“I focused on experiential learning and community development and the role communities of faith play in those arenas,” she says.
Harris’ primary responsibility at Teach for America is to insure that teachers who have completed their two-year rotation in the non-profit teacher corps stay in Mississippi and become leaders in their communities.
“First and foremost as teachers,” she says “But then also as principals, district leaders, elected officials, policy leaders, and civically engaged advocates.”
From working as a teacher in Marks to serving as a school chaplain in Atlanta, Harris knows that education is a complex issue with many different viewpoints and says she advocates making sure all voices are heard and given chances to make a difference.
Today, Harris calls Leland home and serves on the Chamber of Commerce and Leland Frog Fest committee. She is also active with the Young Professionals of Greenville and has served on the board of the Emmett Till Commission in Sumner.
“Real relationships matter especially in Mississippi,” Harris advises young professionals, “At the end of the day, we’re able to work best with each other- even when things are difficult – when (we) know each other as people and know what motivates and inspires one another.”
In her spare time, Harris enjoys cooking, painting, gardening and reading.
Favorite hangout spots: Vince’s in Leland, Yazoo Pass in Clarksdale
Favorite Mississippi food: Catfish and hushpuppies
First job ever: Gift wrapper and clerk at a gift shop in Laurel
Favorite TV show: “The Good Wife”
Favorite movie: “Best in Show”
Favorite music: Anything Southern and/or twangy including bluegrass, folk rock, classic country and gospel.
Twitter handle: @BizHarris