Amanda Harrison loves watching her students fall in love with learning.
Ms. Harrison, who has been teaching for six years, joined her parents, retired educators Betty and Henry Harrison, in opening the Harrison Education Enrichment Center in Tyler.
Ms. Harrison, 32, of Whitehouse, said she wasn’t excited about school until her fourth-grade teacher made learning “come alive” for her. When they were studying ancient Egypt, the teacher decorated the classroom and the students became archeologists.
“We felt like we were experiencing it,” she said. “She helped us see the point in things.”
Ms. Harrison said if it is made meaningful, the students almost learn by osmosis. They don’t realize they’re doing anything but having fun, she added.
“I hope that’s something I can give to my students as well,” Ms. Harrison said.
She studied music at Stephen F. Austin State University before moving to Austin and teaching music to elementary students for two years. Growing up with parents as educators, she decided to become a teacher and returned to SFA to earn a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She has taught first and second grades for the past four years in Whitehouse.
Ms. Harrison, her mother and father are all teachers at the center.
Mrs. Harrison, 68, has been teaching since college, including kindergarten students and working as assistant director at a Montessori school in Plano. Harrison, 70, worked in computer engineering for Texas Instruments before changing careers to become an educator, Ms. Harrison said.
The couple moved to Midland and opened a Montessori school for students 2 years old through third grade. After about seven years, they decided to move to Tyler, where Harrison grew up, and recently started the Harrison Education Enrichment Center.
Her parents are the owners of the center, but Ms. Harrison plants to one day take over as director/owner.
For now, she is focusing on teaching and becoming a mother. After discovering she had some fertility issues in January, she began praying about adopting, she said. She started the adoption process in May, and on Wednesday, she was officially matched with a 1-year-old special-needs girl in China. She hopes to travel there to bring her back soon.
“I’m beyond excited,” she said. “It’s amazing. … It was the right time. … I decided to go for it.”
As far as what she loves most about teaching, Ms. Harrison said, “I love watching students fall in love with learning.”
She has heard students say they hate reading, and after she works with them and they turn around and say reading is their favorite subject, “it is so much fun to know that you made a difference,” she said. “It’s amazing to see that blessing happen in a child.”
Ms. Harrison said the center offers an affordable tutoring option in Tyler, as well as enrichment classes to meet the needs of high-achieving students. She said schools may focus more on students who are struggling or who are on track instead of kids who are ahead of the class.
Ms. Harrison said their enrichment program sets the bar pretty high for those students, offering open-ended projects where students have to come up with what to do instead of being told. They also work together in teams for cooperative learning. For a recent zoology project, teams of students created a mock zoo — from its name, layout and organization to the animals in it and how to market it.
Enrichment classes are offered to kindergarten through middle-school students and she hopes to add high school.
She said there are no more than 12 students in the enrichment classes and the teacher is more like a guide than a teacher.
Focus classes, or tutoring, also are offered in reading and/or math after free assessments with the child. She said groups are made up of no more than five kids who are at the same level. They evaluate every student in the focus classes at the end of each month.
Students as young as 3 or 4 years old who are beginning to read can be a part of the focus classes, she said, adding that the child can come in once a week or more.
They also offer “mommy and me” or “parents and me” classes, where parents or grandparents can come in with pre-k kids once a week to learn with their child. For instance, they work on motor skills development with 2-year-olds and reading/math activities with 4-year-olds. She said research shows it is important for parents to be involved with their children’s learning.
During the summer, the center offers two camps a day, from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. During the school year, “parent and me” classes are offered in the morning, classes for home-schooled children in the afternoon, and enrichment and focus classes for kids in school programs from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
One-hour enrichment classes held for six weeks at a time in the fall will include engineering, theater, art, drama and music, sciences and social studies. They also will be offering, drama, fine arts and science programs for homeschooled children. She said they could possibly start offering Saturday classes for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as “parent and me” classes.
Ms. Harrison said the goal is to be a kind of partner to public schools and to instill a love of learning in students.
Harrison Education Enrichment Center, at 4613 Troup Highway, can be reached at 903-372-7888 or on Facebook.