Andrea Harp has taught at Stanton High School more than 25 years. She is one of nine public school educators who received the 2020 BEST—Baptist Educators Serving Texans—award. Harp is a member of First Baptist Church in Stanton. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on being a Christian in public education.
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What have you taught at Stanton High School?
Most years, I have taught English II—or Sophomore English—and debate. I also have taught speech and even had a choir class for a couple of years. I have taught every grade in high school since I’ve been here, but sophomores are my favorite.
Where else have you served, and what were your positions there?
• Big Spring Independent School District, Goliad Middle School, 6th grade language arts
• Forsan Independent School District, Forsan Middle School, 7th grade self-contained classroom
• Mansfield Independent School District, Mansfield Middle School, 8th grade language arts
• Bangs Independent School District, Bangs High School, English I
Where did you grow up?
The majority of my childhood was spent in Ballinger, Texas. We moved there when I was 7 years old. My dad was the pastor of First Baptist Church, and my mom taught 6th grade English.
We previously lived in Early, Cleburne and Covington, where my dad pastored churches. My parents still reside in Ballinger.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
Raised in a preacher’s home, I was in church all of my life. It was during a revival week, at First Baptist Church in Ballinger in April 1965, that I felt God’s Spirit tugging at my heart.
After school on Thursday of that week, I asked my mother if I could go to the church and talk to my daddy about trusting Christ as my Savior. We talked in his study, and then I prayed the sinner’s prayer as we knelt.
I often have wavered in my daily walk with the Lord, but I’ve never doubted the sincerity of that prayer with my daddy in his office at the church. God has been faithful to me as I work to follow and serve him.
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Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Ballinger High School in 1975. Howard Payne University gave me an outstanding college education. I finished HPU in the summer of 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, a minor in government and a secondary education teaching certificate.
During my teaching career, I have added an English-as-a-Second-Language certification and Gifted and Talented certification.
Why do you feel called into education?
I always have loved to read, study and speak. I don’t remember ever being frightened to stand before others to speak—a little nervous, maybe, but never scared to death. As a high school student, I often shared devotionals in the old “opening assembly” of the adult Sunday school departments.
Teaching and educating had been a calling for me long before I declared a major at Howard Payne University. I worked in Vacation Bible School every summer as a high school student and recognized early that one of my gifts was teaching. Telling a Bible story in VBS always has been one of my favorite things to do.
I felt called into education, because I believed I could use the gifts God had given me to help others. For me, the public school system was the right avenue to travel as I shared my love of teaching.
Teaching is a calling; it’s a call to share your knowledge in a particular area, along with a call to love your students. I encourage my students to study and learn, telling them learning never should stop. Education is empowerment. It is my calling to encourage the students who walk into my classroom to discover their gifts and try their best.
How does being a Christian influence your work in education?
It is my prayer that being a Christian influences everything I do. I hope I am a better teacher because I care about the entire student—his or her mind and soul.
I pray for my students and try to show God’s love and compassion to them. We have many troubled students in today’s world, so I believe anything I can do to love and encourage them might lead them to Jesus at some point in their lives. We need Christian educators now more than ever.
What is your favorite aspect of education? Why?
My favorite aspect of education would have to be the students. It brings me joy to meet new students every school year and watch them as they seek to find their place in the world. My experiences with some of them extend beyond the classroom as we participate in extra-curricular activities.
For the past 25 years, I’ve sponsored UIL academic events in speaking: cross examination debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, extemporaneous speaking and oral interpretation. Guiding and challenging students to improve their God-given abilities through speech and debate offers extra opportunities to get to know the students and possibly influence their lives.
I’ve also worked with the National Honor Society students for many years, striving to teach academic excellence as well as community service to others.
What is your favorite class to teach? Why?
My favorite class to teach is English II Honors. Sophomore students have passed the awkward freshman stage and are settling into high school. The students who choose to take an honors class generally are motivated and eager to learn. We can learn, discuss and work on interesting projects together. Most days, it is just fun.
How do you expect education to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Education has changed drastically since I began teaching 41 years ago. I think hardback books will all but disappear in the classroom in the next 10 to 20 years. Almost every textbook now comes with a digital license, so it can be accessed anywhere online. I don’t think state testing will go away, either, and it continues to change the scope and focus of education.
What do you wish more people knew about education?
I wish more people understood the pressure teachers face today. Even if you leave the pandemic out of the picture, education is such a challenge for teachers. Testing expectations, limitations in the classroom, lack of support, and time constraints affect most of us in the field of education. It is a wonderful place to be for those who love to teach, but it’s a daily test to grapple with all of the distractions.
Why are you Baptist?
I was definitely born a Baptist. When I was a little girl, I did not understand why everyone was not a Baptist. Hopefully, I’ve matured enough to see differing viewpoints on denominations, but I still believe Baptists understand and practice cooperation well.
I support the Cooperative Program and the mission work Baptists have established and supported through many years. Evangelism is a priority to Texas Baptists, and I believe that’s why we are here—to win lost souls to Christ.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
I believe a key issue facing Baptist today is reaching people for Christ while maintaining our basic values and beliefs as Baptists denominationally.
Church definitely has changed during my lifetime. We constantly are looking for new ways to minister and reach people for Christ. Even though some of our methods may change, we need to keep our basic beliefs intact.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My parents have to be at the top of my mentor list. I am so thankful and blessed they still are a vital part of our lives at 91 and 88. They have served the Lord faithfully for all of their lives and influenced their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to do the same.
My daddy has pastored Baptist churches most of his life, and my mother taught school for 32 years. I have watched them pour their lives into others; yet, they never sacrificed our family in the process. They ministered, taught, discipled and served others; they never asked others to do what they weren’t willing to do. They both are true servant leaders who continue to inspire me to be the best servant I can be for the Lord and his kingdom work.
What is the impact of education on your family?
I already have mentioned my mother was a school teacher. I come from a long line of people who prioritized education and/or became educators. Many of my aunts and uncles born during the Depression managed to graduate from high school and pursue a college education. That leads me to believe my grandparents placed a high value on education.
My family has produced college professors and public school teachers. We seem to have passed on the importance and legacy of education, because my daughter and several nieces are educators now.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
Two authors who immediately come to mind are C.S. Lewis and Zora Neale Hurston. I love their work, even though their content and styles are quite different.
I have read and studied C.S. Lewis for many years. I admire the magnitude of his work with The Chronicles of Narnia. It manages to create a literary masterpiece while sharing the simple gospel at the same time.
I also admire and respect the work of Zora Neale Hurston. My favorite book of hers would be Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is a great story of a young girl’s search for love and acceptance, but her literary style is unparalleled. She can paint a word picture better than any other author I have read.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
I’m not sure I can narrow this down, but Philippians 4 has been a favorite of mine for a long time. During times of daily struggles, I remind myself of verses 6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I need God’s peace guarding my mind and heart always.