Hispanic Heritage: Profiles in Leadership - Gladys E. Harris

Gladys Harris Instills a Love of Learning in Her Students
Posted on 11/15/2019
Students on Stage with Ms. Harris

Gladys E. Harris, the principal at Palmetto Elementary School, has been educating children in Palm Beach County for 25 years. She has always had a passion for learning and it inspired her to help students find their path to greatness.

“Sharing my own experiences and struggles about learning English, has motivated many of my students to learn to read and write,” Harris said.

Harris grew up in Guantanamo, Cuba.  Her father worked as a mechanic at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay and her mother was a homemaker. At the age of nine, her father exiled in the U.S. Naval Base and asked the government to allow his family to join him.

In order for the family to leave Cuba, they had to “pay back” the country through mandated labor. Harris’ family left Cuba when she was 13 years old, living in Mexico before moving to Kingston, Jamaica. Eventually, her family returned and made the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay their permanent home.

“I learned English in a middle school where the ESOL program did not exist," Harris said. "I graduated from high school at the naval base after spending many hours tutoring after school to acquire mastery of the English language."

Harris attended Palm Beach State College and Florida Atlantic University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Cultural Diversity in Education.

She started her career in education as a student-teacher at Panther Run Elementary. She also taught at Indian Pines Elementary and Palm Springs Elementary. Later, she returned to Panther Run Elementary to teach a self-contained ESOL class.  She went into administration to influence a larger audience.

“My goal of making a difference in the lives of children, their parents and teachers is still in progress,” Harris
said. “I want to impact them academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Harris spent seven years at West Gate Elementary as an assistant principal before becoming the principal at Palmetto Elementary eight years ago. 
She is married to Elisha, who she describes as a wonderful, caring, and supportive man. Together they have three grown kids, Allen, Alicia, and Gabrielle.

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