Focused on Flagler Schools

A Conversation with Khady Harmon, our Teacher of the Year

March 25, 2021 Flagler Schools Season 1 Episode 3
Focused on Flagler Schools
A Conversation with Khady Harmon, our Teacher of the Year
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down with chemistry and French teacher, Khady Harmon. This year's Flagler Schools Teacher of the Year shares what it's like to teach during a global pandemic and the challenges of connecting with students who may or may not physically be in her classroom.

Jason Wheeler:

From Senegal, to Texas, to Florida. Our District Teacher of the Year has had quite a journey. And she's not about to stop now. This is Focused on Flagler Schools and I'm Jason Wheeler Community Information Specialist with Flagler Schools. We want to share the achievements and challenges facing our students, teachers and staff right here in Flagler County, Florida. So let's dive right in. Khady Harmon is the Flagler SchoolsTeacher of the Year. She teaches at Matanzas High School and we are in her classroom right now. It's nice and quiet. Probably the only time of the day when it's nice and quiet. Thank you for joining us for this this podcast.

Khady Harmon:

Thank you, Jason. Glad to be here.

Jason Wheeler:

First question is, is what is your background? What led you to teaching?

Khady Harmon:

I have a bachelor in chemistry. So originally, I was going to going to med school. But as I started my TA duty in college, I was told that I explained things very well. So I was like, well, you know, let me just try this out and see how it goes. And I absolutely loved it. And I continued.

Jason Wheeler:

It's a passion, because you're not doing it for the money.

Khady Harmon:

Oh, no.

Jason Wheeler:

You'd be a doctor right now if it was for the money.

Khady Harmon:

Really, it's a it's definitely a passion. And my dad was a teacher. And I said I would never do it. So it's it's interesting that now, that gift is on me now. Because I absolutely said there is no way I would do this.

Jason Wheeler:

I know you addressed the School Board a couple of weeks ago when they recognized you and you talked about the importance of education to you. Why is it so important that you teach that you educate that you can be an effective teacher?

Khady Harmon:

Because we have to realize that time changes and as as as it does, we have to keep in mind that education is what connects the past with the present. And when as a teacher when you have these young lions in front of you every day, and you give them information, it's a it's an awesome where you are just to know that you're helping those future professionals.

Jason Wheeler:

You're an immigrant.

Khady Harmon:

I am.

Jason Wheeler:

What is your story? How did you get to Matanzas High School?

Khady Harmon:

Well, I actually followed my brother to the United States. He's the one that wanted to come here. And my brother and I were very close. So I decided to move here and actually to Texas, first to a very, very small town called Kilgore. So we moved there. And then eventually my I met my husband and he moved to St. Augustine for grad school, and I followed.

Jason Wheeler:

And here you are. Are you having fun? Is it enjoyable for you?

Khady Harmon:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I there's the one thing my husband always says, Oh, well, you know, you complain about the homework and all the other things you got to do. But I think you like it. I think I think you just like that torture. And I think we as teachers, we do we...we will complain about it, but we'd love those kids would just do.

Jason Wheeler:

The subjects you teach: French and chemistry?

Khady Harmon:

Yes.

Jason Wheeler:

You don't see that often?

Khady Harmon:

No...no.

Jason Wheeler:

Obviously the chemistry background. But why these two subjects.

Khady Harmon:

Because a couple of years ago, I would have my chemistry kids ask, "I just wish you just have the whole class, a chemistry class in French," just as a joke. And so I did it a couple of times. and then they started offering it for iFlagler. And so I asked Miss Diane Dyer, and I was like, "Well, you know, I would like to teach it." And she said, "Well, you're not certified." I said, "Well, I speak it." So I went and took that test. And now I teach it in the morning, and I have my Chem classes in the afternoon. So the kids get to have me in the morning for French, and the afternoon for chemistry.

Jason Wheeler:

So I guess the lesson learned is don't tell you you can't do something.

Khady Harmon:

And when the kids asked, just don't do it, though.

Jason Wheeler:

What about, and I'm going to date this podcast, because we're doing this SpringBreak just started. And it was a year ago that we were all leaving for Spring Break. And we'll see you on Monday.

Khady Harmon:

Yeah.

Jason Wheeler:

It didn't really work out that way.

Khady Harmon:

Oh, it didn't. And I didn't think that was gonna happen.

Jason Wheeler:

What is the lesson learned as a teacher from last year? We're where you're at now versus where you were a year ago today? Better?

Khady Harmon:

Better. I..you know, there's those things that you say whenever happened, oh, never shut down the school. You know, that's not something we do. We shut down for hurricanes. But one thing that I've learned is things change and you have to be ready. And the way you think that you will be ready will be completely different...teaching from home. Having students and not understanding how much time important school is to our students because a lot of them went through a lot, just not coming to school. So as a teacher, we've learned how important we are to them, and to the community. So I think I'm, we're much, much better than last year.

Jason Wheeler:

What about how important the kids are to the teachers?

Khady Harmon:

Well, that's a given. But we are gonna say that they are absolutely joy.

Jason Wheeler:

Because it's got to be weird to have the shutdown. And that is we're not opening back up for the rest of the year.

Khady Harmon:

We're not.

Jason Wheeler:

And there's nobody here.

Khady Harmon:

There's no one here. And, and we don't realize how much we rely on each other. And so you get an email from a kid in the middle of the summer, for example, I know, they'll tell you, they miss you. And I was like, You don't even talk to me half the time. But okay, I miss you, too. So, you know, some kids don't necessarily look like they give back. But they do. Eventually when they get that gut to say "thank you." It's it's absolutely priceless to us.

Jason Wheeler:

And you have students come back graduate and come back and talk. What is that like, as a teacher that you know, because usually you think "I've done my year, I've done my four years with you...And good luck to you? See you later. But then you look up and there they are, again...

Khady Harmon:

Yes, they are as adults.

Jason Wheeler:

What was that like for you professionally to see that and the baby bird has come back?

Khady Harmon:

Right? It's uh, I would say not just professionally, but I always tell my kids that in school that, you know, they, they they go from students to nephew, his nephews and nieces. So when they do come back and to see them make something out of what you've taught them, it's, it just gives us purpose as teachers, because we don't always see it right away on the importance of what we teach them. So to see them come back and come back with with thankfulness. And sometimes as teachers, because we have a couple of people here on campus that we're students here, and they're not colleagues. That's amazing. Amazing.

Jason Wheeler:

What are the challenges to teaching in 2020 2021.

Khady Harmon:

We are teaching new kids and we are new teachers. I feel like a first year teacher, and I'm sure a lot of my colleagues will agree. Just being able to keep school as a safe haven for them, while some of the things in life are getting a little chaotic. And remembering that we are here to learn. We are here to make sure that these kids, no matter what, they're not going to, they may remember 2021 as the pandemic but they are going to remember school more. They come to school every day, they talk to their teachers every day. And it's very important for us in 2021 to remember that they matter. Those kids are absolutely priority.

Jason Wheeler:

You take things for granted until...

Khady Harmon:

You do.

Jason Wheeler:

...until they're snapped away from you.

Khady Harmon:

You do.

Jason Wheeler:

I know we're slowly putting normalcy back together, but it's not there yet.

Khady Harmon:

It's not I tell kids I said if I see you out somewhere without a mask, and you and I and I don't greet you. It's not because I'm ignoring you. I just don't know your face. I just don't. I just don't know your face. I know your voice. I know your personality. But I have not never seen you without a mask. So I will see you somewhere at Publix or it's not Publix, but somewhere out where you're not wearing a mask. And I may not acknowledge you. And that's very difficult. We don't know their face. You have not seen it all year.

Jason Wheeler:

That's a gut punch. It is it is how do you keep students engaged in your class? Because I know I've been in your class a couple times. And you do a remote-live, kind of a hybrid thing here. It's a chemistry class.

Khady Harmon:

Yes.

Jason Wheeler:

I'm used to Bunsen burners and stuff like that and hands on.

Khady Harmon:

Yes.

Jason Wheeler:

How do you keep them engaged in such a class like a chemistry class?

Khady Harmon:

I think making it fun to them as in relatable. I think I I have a pretty witty, sarcastic sometimes, personality. But that matches that age group. I mean, I have 16,17,18 years old, they relate to that. So when they log on from home, they have to know that this is not a recorded, you know, video for them to watch. They are part of this class. So to keep them engaged first we connect them with kids in class. I mean, we have breakout rooms thank God for zoom. We have breakout rooms and all that but just to make sure that learning doesn't matter where you are, you will learn at home, just like you would learn here in class.

Jason Wheeler:

Being named the Teacher of the Year for you. It was a surprise.

Khady Harmon:

Yeah, obviously.

Jason Wheeler:

What does that mean to you though, as a teacher, you've, how many years you've been in the classroom?

Khady Harmon:

About nine now.

Jason Wheeler:

And and you don't teach, obviously to become the Teacher of the Year. You're teaching for the kids. But being named this and being the representative for all of our teachers here like our county on a statewide level, what does that mean to you personally and professionally?

Khady Harmon:

Personally that..that is something to me, and I've mentioned that before that I never thought that I would ever be recognized in such a way. And, and, and i think it's, it's even more now because a lot of people have experienced so many tragedies this year. So did I. I lost my mother and my brother within a year. So just to represent when it means to overcome, personally to overcome professionally, that puts a huge, huge responsibility because I want to represent those that do what I do and very well, professional, focuses on the kid, and knows her content very well. So I think after this year, I will be even a better teacher than I was when I got nominated for it because of this.

Jason Wheeler:

What are your expectations for the upcoming school year? I know we still have we still haven't..We haven't closed the book on this one. But you got to be looking forward.

Khady Harmon:

Oh, yeah.

Jason Wheeler:

Are you hoping for a little more normalcy. You'll see full faces once again.

Khady Harmon:

Whatever that looks like. Normally, I hope I'll be able to see their face. That's that's that's the number one thing . And normalcy? We don't know what it's going to look like. But I hope that it would look like people. Because we don't want to lose that human touch to teaching, doesn't matter what I teach, they can put them in French, they can put me in chemistry and biology. I want to see the kids, we want to have that interaction. So what you call no mercy is that us have our kids back.

Jason Wheeler:

You teach high school. So nothing's really normal. But this leads my next question, though, is why high school? Could you teach elementary? Could you teach middle school?

Khady Harmon:

We all have our gifts and my gift is not anyone that has not hit puberty? Because there's a certain personality match with the high schoolers. I just love them. They are... they're in between. They're trying to become adults, but they're still children. So it's a it's a very, very interesting part of life. And I...I that's my fit. That's just it.

Jason Wheeler:

How do you juggle being a top notch teacher, a highly effective teacher? Being a great wife and a spectacular Mom, how do you...how do you do that? And let's throw a global pandemic on top of it as well.

Khady Harmon:

I would say that is to support support system, just like you just mentioned, it's so many layers of self. I'm a wife. I'm a mother. I'm a sister, I'm a friend. So I think having a healthy support system allows you to go through whatever I mean, look at Florida and palm trees, we go through hurricanes, and they're still here, because they have a great support system. We love palm trees. But this, seriously, that support system. And that's why it was so important for me to have that connection with my kids because they...they make me better. They do.

Jason Wheeler:

When you came back the week after you were named Teacher of the Year. Anybody treat you different here? Is there a higher..a better...more expectation on you.

Khady Harmon:

Umm not really but I was actually surprised that people weren't as surprised that that was because I think there was the surprise was on me which which made me so humble that I've got ...I had so many other teachers that aIhighly respecct, come to me and and say it was about time. I think that just ,that just made me so much more humble. So it's it's, it's important to realize that you you have to keep working hard because you don't. You may think that people don't see but they see your hard work. So as other teachers in this county, there are not teacher that of the year. Just know that people see your hard work.

Jason Wheeler:

Are you comfortable being the face of Flagler County teachers for the next 365 days?

Khady Harmon:

I am so honored and humbled and excited. This is an amazing place. So it's it's it's it's, it's really cool.

Jason Wheeler:

What makes you sad.

Khady Harmon:

Injustice, and tragedies. And right now we're seeing a lot of that.

Jason Wheeler:

It's tough.

Khady Harmon:

It is tough.

Jason Wheeler:

And then we're not even talking about chemistry or French.

Khady Harmon:

Oh no, we're talking about life in general. And as teachers that's what we have to understand. This is not a normal job. This is not one where you clock in, you deal with your job and you leave you have it's an emotional job. And you are these kids are eight hours with you and their kids and they don't know what's going on and and you know they have things going on. But sometimes there's nothing you can do. You can just be there for them.

Jason Wheeler:

And last question for you: what makes you happy?

Khady Harmon:

My family, my husband and my kids Oh, my God. My God first of course but I'm here. being here and being able to be in such a country where I can live my dream. There was no other place I would rather be been than right here in Flagler County doing what I do.

Jason Wheeler:

Khady Harmon, Teacher of the Year, teacher of chemestry, of French here at Matanzas High School. Thank you so much for the conversation.

Khady Harmon:

Thank you, Jason.

Jason Wheeler:

And we want to thank you for listening to Focused on Flagler Schools, a production of the Flagler County School District. New episodes are released every other Thursday. If you like what you hear, subscribe, and check out Flagler Schools at www.flaglerschools.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we're @FlaglerSchools. Thanks for listening. And remember, let's keep Focused on Flagler Schools.