It was with great sadness that I learned early Monday morning of the home going of Valarie Harris. For nearly two decades, Valarie served as the Kindergarten teacher at Grace Christian School in Columbus, Georgia and as a beginner Sunday School teacher at Grace Baptist Church. It was my privilege to serve as Valarie’s pastor and boss for nearly 13 years. Valarie loved kindergarten, and kindergartners loved her. When you spend over 15 years in Kindergarten, you can learn some valuable lessons.
First, Valarie was the model of submission. Kindergarten is the first time that a child is usually exposed to authority outside the home. Valarie taught kindergartners how to submit by submitting herself. She was always sensitive to my desires as her boss and pastor, but more importantly, she was sensitive to the dictates of her husband Jerome and her Lord. She always wanted to be sure she was doing the right thing by authority.
Valarie also modeled a strong work ethic. For many kindergartners, the school day is their first exposure to work. Valarie never asked a kindergartner to work hard while she loafed. We never worried if she was giving it her all. We certainly got our “bank for the buck” from her.
Attitude was also one of Valarie’s great assets. As the Christian school movement experienced declining enrollment and Christian schoolteachers became even more under appreciated, Valarie’s spirit remained exemplary. No child in K-5 ever witnessed Mrs. Harris having a bad day. She always brought her “A” game. She never allowed pouting in her class or in herself.
When we moved to Georgia in 1999 our youngest daughter April was in K-5. Mrs. Harris was her teacher. And April’s transition to Georgia was made much easier by the kind yet firm discipline of Valarie Harris.
In just a few days, kindergarten graduation will take place at GCS, and a staple, an icon, will be missed. Valarie was kindergarten. It will be hard to imagine the last door on the left without her effervescence behind it.
Though Valarie is gone and leaves a husband and three children to mourn, her presence remains in the hearts of those who had the privilege to call Mrs. Harris “my kindergarten teacher.” The first exposure that many GCS graduates had to any formal education was Mrs. Harris. What a great way to get started!
Valarie finally graduated Sunday afternoon from kindergarten. I am sure that the lessons we learned from her life will stay with us for a long time. Her works do follow her. I would echo the words she most assuredly heard from our Lord when she stepped before His throne: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”