Assistant Professor Sheila Harris Named a Bringer of Light
KINGSVILLE - March 28, 2013
Sheila Harris, assistant professor for the health and kinesiology department at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, has been named a “Bringer of Light” by the campus group Servants of Las Luminarias.
An anonymous collection of campus community members, the Servants of Las Luminarias select those that they feel are “bringers of the light of the knowledge of goodness to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus community.”
As a spring honoree, Harris received a ceramic “luminaria,” or large ornamental candle holder, an Easter lily and a framed certificate of recognition. The certificate states that Harris has, through word and deed, “selflessly and consistently shone the light of goodness into our midst.”
When Harris came into her office, her eyes were drawn to the lily. “I’m a gardener, so my first thought was, ‘My, what a lovely plant!’ Then I saw the plaque and read it, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was glad I was by myself!
“It couldn’t have made my day any better.”
This May will mark 36 years Harris has been teaching at A&M-Kingsville. Among her current subjects are dance, fitness and swimming. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at the university, and is teacher certified in health and physical education and business education. She began teaching when she was a graduate student. “I am a product of Texas A&I University, and proud that we’re Texas A&M University-Kingsville.”
Harris said she started as an accounting major, but her degree path soon changed when dance began capturing her attention more than budget ledgers. “The university had a big dance program in the 1970s, and I took every class they had to offer.
“Dance is about moving, it’s a way to show emotions, feelings—it’s a way to communicate without words. I’m a fitness nut, so that suits me well.
“Being behind a desk all day would have killed me,” Harris said, laughing.
She worked part-time at the university while working her first full-time job, as athletic director for the Presbyterian Pan American School. She coached the boys’ soccer team during her four years there before coming back to the university and eventually teaching full time, starting in 1984.
For Harris, the choice to teach health and aerobics at a university rather than pursue a dance career started with her parents’ influence. “In the 70s and 80s, if you wanted to be a dancer, you could either be a Rockette or go to Las Vegas. My folks weren’t happy with either of those choices, so that led to teaching.”
Teaching health and aerobics may have started as a way to appease her parents, but Harris embraces her choice wholeheartedly. “Teaching is the best way to change the world, even if it’s just one person at a time. It allows me to encourage students to find their potential, their strength, determination and drive.
“The new generation is tougher to reach sometimes, because of the instant gratification they get through technology. But when you get through and they begin to learn their strengths, it’s very rewarding.”
Beyond the classroom, Harris can be found outside in the dirt. “I garden like crazy—I love to garden.” She brings that love of gardening back to the university, working with the Office of Sustainability on the planning of a teaching garden.
Family is an important word for Harris, a native of Alice. It’s the way she describes the university, where she met her husband Tad, also a longtime health and kinesiology faculty member who retired eight years ago.
Her aforementioned parents are also a big part of Harris’ identity. Mother Judith is about to celebrate her 91st birthday. “She’s broken both hips and needs a cane to get around, but continues to be active, and her mind is sharp. She inspires me every day.”
Father Werner, who passed away, suffered from cardiovascular problems later in life. His pursuit to stay fit and active after being diagnosed with his health issues inspires Harris to live a healthy lifestyle. She’s shared that passion for healthy living with her students at the university, and within the community; Harris has taught various community fitness classes in her spare time since 1975. She currently teaches water aerobics through the Sunshine Swimmers program. Sponsored by Texas A&M-Kingsville Campus Recreation and Fitness, Harris said the Sunshine Swimmers consists of community members as well as retired A&M-Kingsville spouses.
“They represent lots of university history, and they are the happiest group I know at 6:45 in the morning!” Harris said. “I get my daily dose of inspiration, hugs and laughter from them--they are my personal “Bringers of Light.” I guess their light just reflects off of me!
Does Harris have anything to say to the anonymous Servants of Las Luminaris? “I like to be in the background, so to recognize a ‘behind-the-scenes’ person for their actions with such an honorable award—that’s huge. It’s wonderful.
“The luminaria will be displayed in a place of honor in my home.”
This page was last updated on: March 29, 2013