Teacher Laura Harke makes the move from Texas to Sevier

WELL-TRAVELED TEACHER. Laura Harke, right, taught in Michigan and Texas before moving to Tennessee. She now teaches Language Arts at Sevier Middle.

JaKyla Chambers

WELL-TRAVELED TEACHER. Laura Harke, right, taught in Michigan and Texas before moving to Tennessee. She now teaches Language Arts at Sevier Middle.

JaKyla Chambers, Staff

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From Michigan, to East Texas and finally Teneseee, new 7th grade Language Arts teacher Laura Harke took the long way around to get to Sevier Middle School.

Born and raised in Michigan, she ended up moving to East Texas in 2013. Soon after, she moved to Tennessee. She is married and has two children, Evie, who is three years old, and Ryan, who is one.

Harke was influenced by her mother and grandmother to become a teacher. Their passion for teaching inspired her.

“I decided to become a teacher because I love learning and sharing knowledge with others,” Harke said. “I like knowing that I make a difference with my career.”

As an adult, she attended Western Michigan University and spent three semesters studying Civil Engineering before changing her major to Elementary Education.

“Even though I teach Language Arts, I took a lot of math in college,” she said. “College was more difficult than I anticipated, more so when I was studying engineering, because school came so easy to me in high school. I had to learn how to study and take real notes in class.”

Harke moved to Tennessee because her husband’s works for Eastman Chemical Company.  Although she was leaving Texas, she was very excited about moving to Tennessee.

“I was excited about moving here because of all of the awesome hiking and camping that is so close, and Tennessee is closer to Michigan, where my family lives, than Texas,” she said.

To Harke, Tennessee is pretty different from Texas.

“There are actually four seasons here, and summers here are nowhere near as hot and humid,” she said.

Not only that, but the geography of East Texas is mainly flat, unlike Tennessee, which is full of trees, mountains and plateaus.

“I will say, though, that the people here are even nicer,” Harke said.

As a teacher in Texas, Harke taught at Gilmer Intermediate School. Her first year there she spent teaching 6th grade Social Studies, followed by Language Arts for two-and-a-half years.

“I loved teaching there,” Harke said. “It was a small school, so it felt like a family. I had a wonderful mentor teacher whom I credit with most of my good teaching ideas and methods. My first group of 6th graders are seniors in high school this year, so it’s fun for me to see what they’re deciding to do after they graduate in the spring.”

Harke loves teaching at Sevier Middle School.

“Everyone is so helpful and understanding, staff and students alike,” she said.

The most challenging thing so far has been getting used to teaching a new grade at a new school and district.

Academically,  Harke was a good student in middle school, but she also had a weird, rebellious phase.

“It was right at the time when Emo and Punk music were popular, so I really got into that scene,” she said. “I was very awkward.”

As a teacher, Harke has experienced many memorable moments.

“My fondest education-related memory was when I lost my voice one day and had to have a few of my students help ‘teach’ the class,” she said. “They tried to imitate my way of teaching, and it was both funny and heart-warming.”

In the years that she has been teaching, her students have taught her that everyone deserves a second, or third or fourth chance.

“No matter how tough a time someone is having, if you keep believing in them, building them up, and setting high expectations for them, they can be successful,” she said.

Harke has also had some strange experiences in her life.

“My students would never guess that I had a ladybug stuck in my ear for four years when I was a kid,” she said. “It’s a weird fact, but it definitely makes me unique.”

The main reason Harke enjoys Language Arts is because of how it makes people think. People can basically just read something, but if they really want to appreciate it, that requires deep thinking.

“Writing is so multi-faceted, as well, requiring thought about word-choice, structure, syntax, and so much more,” she said.

Harke appreciates her co-workers at Sevier Middle.

“Everyone has been welcoming and has been willing to go the extra mile when I need something,” she said. “I am especially grateful to my colleagues who make coffee in the mornings.”

Harke has some advice for Sevier Middle School’s students.

“My advice to the students of Sevier is to learn from your mistakes,” she said. “You are going to mess up. Everyone does. But it’s what you do after you do something wrong that shows who you are as a person. So be resilient and grow from the experience.”

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