MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Teachers are often some of the first role models that children have outside of their families.
January's Mid-South Hero is a first grade teacher in Memphis who puts the students in his classroom first 24/7.
At Promise Academy, C.J. Harris puts all of his energy towards his students' education.
"First grade, this is really the starting ground,” said Harris.
Harris is only in his second year of teaching, but his style and dedication has won over parents and students alike.
"Teaching is not what he does, it’s who he is,” said Rodney Porter, parent of student.
Harris' philosophy is simple -- set expectations, provide encouragement and keep the whole family in the loop on each child's education.
Annie Curtis' grandson was in his class last year.
"He loves Mr. Harris,” said Curtis. "He always disrupted the classrooms, but when he went to Mr. Harris' room, he was like a different child."
Harris works to build a relationship with the kids, but also the parents.
He'll even call mom or dad or grandma on the weekend to pick their brain about a particular challenge their child might be facing that week.
Parents like Rodney Porter say between the constant communication and the connection he makes with the students, Harris is able to bring out their best.
"My son was an extreme introvert, had a speech impediment, and one of the things that we were trying to do was get him out of his shell. Mr. Harris' energy has rubbed off on our son and needless to say we don't have that problem anymore, now we're trying to dial him back some,” said Porter.
“He is interested in the children. He sees what their potentials are and he makes them work up to their potential," said Curtis.
Harris draws inspiration from his own childhood, watching shows like the Magic School Bus or using his imagination to picture what life as a dinosaur would be like. And, on a more serious note, reflecting on the qualities his teachers had that motivated him as a student.
"The teachers who worked really well with me set expectations that weren't negotiable. Those teachers were the ones that got the best out of me,” said Harris.
And beyond his job as teacher, Porter says Harris provides his son with another black, male role model to look up to.
"It's great to have a man like Mr. Harris as a tag-team partner when you're trying to raise a young black man in today's world,” said Porter. "He doesn't clock out."
So C.J. Harris, it’s that 24/7 dedication to your students that makes you this month’s Mid-South Hero.
If you know someone worthy of being called a hero, nominate them here.