Dedication To Education Award Presented to Sunflower Elementary Para-Educator Mike Harris

December 18, 2018


Mike Harris receives the Dedication to Education Award Mike Harris, a para-educator at Sunflower Elementary School, was awarded the 12th annual Dedication to Education Award by the Lawrence Schools Foundation Tuesday morning. The award includes a $5,000 check the recipient can use for personal use.

The Dedication to Education award is given annually to a certified teacher or para-educator who goes the extra mile to help kids who need it most. The award honors someone who supports “Learning for all, whatever it takes” by ensuring that challenged and/or disadvantaged students learn.  The honor was created by community members who are the sons and daughters of a group of anonymous donors who initiated the Bobs Award for Teaching Excellence in 1997, given in the spring.

Prior to joining the Lawrence Public Schools, Harris retired as a lieutenant in the Air Force. He has been a para-educator at Sunflower Elementary since the 2008-09 academic year. He is a special education para working with some of the most challenging students, who have academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs.

“I was brought to this because I have an aunt who was not allowed to go to school,” Harris explained. “She was a young woman with special needs. That was my starting point. I really wanted people to feel needed and wanted. My whole life is dedicated to service so I wanted to continue to serving the community in some way after 20 years of military so there is no better way than this.”

“Children in my classroom know that Mike genuinely cares about them as students and more importantly as people,” wrote Lisa Melton, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunflower. “Mike is the caring adult that all children need in their lives. Mike is firm, but kind, and maintains positive relationships will all of my students.”

Resource teacher Eve Cummins says she is appreciative of the influence Harris has with the students.

“Mike works to help students learn how to use the tools and resources they need to be productive and proud,” Cummins wrote. “He helps students recognize their abilities and focus on how to overcome challenges that they face at school and at home. It makes me smile when I see a strong, determined man with a military mind, simply melt and make exceptions for students who need them. His keen sense of when to be in charge versus when to be flexible is priceless.” 

Fellow special education teacher Sheryl Simmons wrote that “Mike will always go above and beyond in order for all of our students to have a variety of learning opportunities and to be as successful as they can be.”

Principal Howard Diacon and Mike Harris Principal Howard Diacon called Harris an inspiration to everyone who works at Sunflower Elementary.

“Mike is dedicated to Sunflower Elementary, our students and our staff,” he wrote. “Every year Mike presents to our classrooms about his career in the United States Air Force and what it means to be a veteran.”

“Mike goes out of his way to get to know the interests of the students he works with directly and of all of the students he interacts with each day,” Diacon added. “Mike is always patient with students, but he always expects them to do their best. Because of Mike’s personal integrity he is a great role model for our students and staff.

The Lawrence Schools Foundation is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization that raises money to enrich the education of the students in the Lawrence Public Schools.  The Foundation seeks to promote and enhance effective early childhood education, innovative teaching and learning opportunities, recognition of outstanding educators and encouragement of student achievement.

To learn about the Lawrence Schools Foundation or to make a donation to support Lawrence Public Schools, visit

Dedication to Education Award Recipients:

2007 - Jim Immel (Early Childhood Center)

2008 - Mary Ann Henry (South Junior High School)

2009 - Mary Chamberlin (Pinckney Elementary School)

2010 - Charlotte Lauts (Lawrence High School)

2011 - Lori Sinclair (Woodlawn Elementary School)

2012 - Ron Swall (Lawrence Free State High School)

2013 - Morgan Randle (Southwest Middle School)

2014 - Heather Lee (Lawrence High School)

2015 - Cara McNorton (Kennedy Elementary School)

2016 - Kim Fuller (South Middle School)

2017 – Leah Henry (Juvenile Detention Center)

2018 – Mike Harris (Sunflower Elementary School)

Mike and Becky Harris  Mike Harris with LSF board members. Harris after the announcement