By Jim Gaines
Janice Harris, executive administrative secretary and office manager in the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Office of Education Technology, received the inaugural Teresa Perry Compassion Award during the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE) meeting June 2.
Harris has served Kentucky students and teachers for nearly 36 years, with 22 of those spent at KDE. She worked with KDE’s first Equity Division and human resources team, and helped provide quality services for special needs and exceptional Kentucky students. For nearly a decade, she has helped KDE staff and all students, along with teachers, school leaders and support staff, by providing KDE’s EdTech services.
The award is named in honor of Teresa Perry, who served as executive secretary to the commissioner of education and worked for the state for more than 33 years. She was noted for providing outstanding customer service to those inside and outside the agency, always exhibiting compassion and providing positive inspiration for others. She died suddenly on June 9, 2020, at age 65.
The Teresa Perry Compassion Award will be given each June to a KDE employee who exhibits the characteristics and professionalism Perry showed every day.
“I loved Teresa,” Harris said. “I am very, very honored to be the first recipient of this award.”
Harris is a state leader in the NAACP, works in her church with members in need, mentors hundreds of children, and helps care for those with dementia and addiction.
Her nominator, who worked with both Perry and Harris, said they “are truly two peas in a pod – angels on Earth, that were and still are great champions of KDE and the smiling and helpful face of our organization.”
“Like Teresa, Janice represents the best that is within each of us and what we hope every KDE employee will model in their interaction with other folks in KDE, the districts and the general public,” her nominator wrote. “She makes me and nearly everyone she interacts with not only want to be a better person but be a better person to others. If you can’t get along with Janice, well, you can’t get along with anyone.
“Janice lives a life of courage, competence, helping others and compassion. Teresa would be so proud and approving for Janice’s name to be connected with this award.”
Toni Konz Tatman, KDE chief communications officer, said she knew Perry would say not to worry about honoring her.
“But if forced to do so, she would say to honor and remember her by doing something nice for someone else,” Tatman said. “And so, this is KDE’s way of honoring and doing something nice for someone else, on Teresa’s behalf – someone we work with every day.
“I am incredibly proud to have worked on the creation of this award with my colleague Lynn McGowan-McNear, our resource management director’ and Teresa’s family, which includes her sister Dru Hawkins, who works for KDE in the Office of Finance and Operations, as well as her three children: Laura Avent, John Perry and Emily Ball.”
Perry’s family attended the presentation, and gave Harris a glass vase – a tribute to Perry’s love of flowers.