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Sept. 9, 2015
By Nikeila Jensen, media relations assistant
An excerpt of this story appears in the fall 2015 Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view the Northwest Alumni Magazine in its entirety online, click here.
Early on Friday, May 8, in front of millions of television viewers, Northwest Missouri State University alumnus Donn Harrison, a kindergarten teacher at Parkview Elementary School in Cameron, Mo., received the 2015 Top Teacher Award on “Live with Kelly & Michael.”
“It sounds cliché, but it was surreal,” Harrison said. “I was thinking this is not real, this is a joke, a very extensive joke. It all started because my wife wrote a letter nominating me. She just wanted a letter back saying, ‘Thank your husband’ for teacher appreciation week.”
Instead, Harrison received a phone call from a show producer saying he had made it to the top 12. Within days he was notified he had made it to the top four and was needed on the set for the announcement of the winner.
As the first place winner, Harrison received a Ford Edge, a $20,000 check from Coca-Cola Life and a golden apple trophy. Parkview Elementary School received 30 Intel-Powered ASUS laptops.
Harrison graduated from Northwest in 2000 with his master’s degree in early childhood education. He said he was proud to represent the Cameron community and is grateful for the education he received at Northwest.
“Northwest stuck out as a place that held you accountable,” he said. “I learned a lot. It was the place to go. Northwest provided personal attention, small classes and networking through exceptional teachers from other schools.”
Harrison has been teaching kindergarten at Parkview for 21 years.
“Kindergarten is easy to teach,” he said. “(The students have) waited their whole little lives to go to school. Those 5-year-olds are my boss. It’s all about the kids – everything you do everything you think about is centered on the kids.”
Outside of being a Top Teacher, Harrison holds many other titles, including father, husband, firefighter, EMT, crossing guard, church volunteer and sports announcer.
“If you say yes more than you say no, you can do some pretty cool things,” he said. “Put faith and family first and everything falls into place.”
As he reflected on all his roles and recent accomplishment, he credits his grandfather with having a large impact on him as a child. Watching his grandfather treat others well and how others respected him encouraged Harrison to do the same.
“If you treat everyone like they’re the mayor you can’t go wrong,” Harrison says. “I am way happy. I have the best job in the world.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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