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Harris: Retiring like ‘leaving home’

WILLOW WOOD — For Bob Harris, a career that started over a half century ago is drawing to a close.

Harris, who is in his 51st year of teaching and school administration, is retiring this year from Symmes Valley Elementary and Junior High School.

Harris has been the school’s principal for 11 years. He started there after retiring in 1996 from the Chesapeake Village School District, where he spent 40 years.

“It’s different this time,” Harris said of retiring. “When I retired before I thought I was ready. Now when you’re 72 it’s a little different. It’s kind of like you’re leaving home.”

Harris’s last business with the district will be the board of education meeting Monday evening.

District Superintendent Jeff Saunders said Harris will be missed.

“Mr. Harris is a highly dedicated person who loves the students and he’ll be greatly missed,” Saunders said.

Harris, who was born in Chesapeake, decided to become a teacher while he was a senior in high school. At the time, he was not sure that he would be able to go to college. When two of his teachers suggested that he apply for a scholarship to get his teaching certificate, he took them up on their suggestion and did just that. He attended the University of Rio Grande for two years to earn his teaching certificate and then went on to earn his bachelor of arts degree.

“I was enjoying teaching and coaching so much that it took me eight years to get my bachelor’s,” Harris said.

Harris coached football, basketball, cross country running and track.

Under Harris’s direction, the Chesapeake boys track team won nine out of 12 championships, eight of which were consecutive. He also coached the Chesapeake girls’ track team, which won seven championships in a row.

Despite his success, Harris said his favorite part of coaching was seeing students succeed. One particular event that stands out is when a shot-putter he coached who did not have much talent finally won a conference during his senior year.

“That was a very good year for me,” Harris said.

The educator said of all his achievements, he is most proud that both Chesapeake and Symmes Valley schools have done well on achievement tests.

After retirement, Harris plans to spend more time with his wife and family.

“When I was coaching I wouldn’t get home every evening until about 6 and then I would have games from 6 to 10,” Harris said. “I just haven’t been able to give her the time that I should have.”

He said his family has always been very supportive of his career.

“My daughter is a teacher at Chesapeake, and my son is an instructor at West Virginia State. Education is in their blood, I guess.”