BLUFORD – Educator Brock Harris hopes his 11 years of experience in the criminal justice field will serve him well as the new principal at Webber Township High School.
This is Harris’ first job in education administration, but he is confident about meeting the new challenges ahead.
Harris, 38, was previously a special education teacher, but most of his career has been spent as a correctional officer, including working seven years at the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg. He officially started as principal at Webber Township High School July 1.
“Any type of experience in the private sector (is helpful),” Harris said. “As a teacher, I try to set a positive example by staying late and coming in early. I lead by example.”
After graduating high school, Harris attended Rend Lake College, then John A. Logan College. He then tested with the Illinois Department of Corrections to become a correctional officer.
His first job in this capacity was at Stateville Correctional Center. After two years there, he transferred to Tamms Correctional Center and later to the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg, a juvenile detention facility.
Throughout all this, though, becoming an educator was always in the back of Harris’ mind. His wife is a teacher and she helped influence his decision to move into education.
“I wasn’t terribly happy with what I was doing,” Harris said. “(My wife) encouraged me to go back and get my special education teaching certification.”
Harris earned his certificate at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and was hired as a special education teacher at Thompsonville High School in 2008.
During his five years at Thompsonville, Harris received his administrative certification and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Harris said he is taking an open-minded approach to his new role as principal at Webber Township High School.
“I’m just trying to keep an open mind and trying to stay ahead of everything (to) be the best administrator I can be,” Harris said. “I just want to get to know the students and the staff.”
While employed at the Illinois Youth Center, Harris said he gained valuable experience working with troubled kids, many of whom just needed some guidance to get them on the right path. He hopes he can help more young people as a principal.
“I think I can relate to certain kids more so than someone who hasn’t had these experiences,” Harris said.
Harris was hired at Webber Township High School to replace former principal Jennifer Martin, who stepped down to return to teaching.
The school’s Board of Education received a number of applications for Martin’s position, but board members were impressed with Harris’ criminal justice background.
They also responded to the fact that Harris had been a school board member himself and a coach, said Scott Porter, superintendent of Webber Township High School and the Bluford Elementary School District.
“He comes to us with a unique background,” Porter said of Harris. “He’s had a wealth of experiences we thought were interesting.”
Harris lives with his wife, Beth, in Thompsonville. They have two daughters – Kennedy, 13, and Kameryn, 10.