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Monroe High teacher Jonathan Harbin named 2019-2020 UCPS Teacher of the Year

Jonathan Harbin TOY Nearly 20 years ago, Jonathan Harbin stood in front of 30 Sun Valley High students as their new English III teacher.

He had recently earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English from the University of Georgia, and was completely new to the teaching profession.

By 3 p.m. at the end of the school day, he had fallen completely with the education field and never looked back.

He didn’t know it at the time, but that exact moment was the beginning of his 19-year-career as an English teacher in UCPS – a career which most recently culminated in Harbin being named the 2019-20 UCPS Teacher of the Year at the school district’s annual banquet on April 16.

“I had no idea," Harbin said after the announcement. "So many amazing teachers were being recognized that I wasn’t expecting this at all."

After working as an English teacher at Sun Valley High and UC Virtual, Harbin joined Monroe High in 2005 where he has taught English at all levels, served as the English department chairperson, mentored beginning teachers and worked with summer enrichment programs. As a master teacher at the school, he also coaches and mentors fellow teachers and helps teachers share and implement best practices.

"I'm overly excited for Mr. Harbin and this is definitely well deserved. For me, what separates Mr. Harbin is his willingness to go above and beyond for all of his students through the relationships that he builds with them," Monroe High Principal Christopher Kelly said after the banquet. "He knows all of his students individually and he knows what their challenges are and he's able to really form a close bond that I've seen firsthand last outside of the classroom. Students who have graduated always tell me how great Mr. Harbin is."

Jonathan Harbin TOY In his classroom, Harbin said that bond with students is something he strives to develop each day. This connection is critical as it also sets the foundation for him to encourage and push his students to reach the high standards he sets for them.

“Building relationships, and creating an impact with the community through those relationships, are what I enjoy most about teaching. I’m finally starting to see the long-term effect of those relationships and it’s amazing to watch,” he said. “If I want students to take away one thing from my class, it would be to think of others before themselves.”

For winning the countywide Teacher of the Year title, Harbin received $500 for his personal use as well as a one-year lease of a 2019 car, courtesy of Union County KIA. The Union County Education Foundation also awarded him $1,000 for his personal use. Additionally, Harbin will now represent UCPS in the regional Teacher of the Year program.

Pierce Group Benefits, Union County Education Foundation, Target and Union County KIA sponsored the 2019-20 Teacher of the Year Banquet, which was held at Rolling Hills Country Club.

Check out the photo gallery below to see pictures from the 2019 Teacher of the Year banquet: