LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

« Return to Nominee List

Sonya Harris

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School
School District: Glassboro Public Schools
City, State: Glassboro, NJ

Support Sonya Leave a comment

Sonya Harris was nominated by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous 

Five years ago, Ms. Harris had the idea to start a garden for the children at Bullock Elementary School. She contacted as many people as she could to learn about ways to start a school garden, and researched how school gardens benefit children. She was able to contact a celebrity landscaper from the DIY network. Not only did he offer to help her, but he connected her with a local landscaper and offered to do a yard crash on the garden site. This beautiful outdoor classroom was donated to the school, and the children love it. Since then, Ms. Harris has worked tirelessly to make sure the garden remains a beautiful, educational space for students.

She fundraises, plans lessons, and even started a nonprofit organization to help other schools start gardens. Sometimes, she’s at school until 10 at night, simply working on ways to make the garden better for all children. Now, Ms. Harris leads her entire district on getting school gardens. Out of five schools, three have gardens. By the end of the school year, the other two schools will have their gardens up and running. Ms. Harris also volunteered to lead the Glassboro School District’s efforts toward sustainability. She doesn't receive any extra pay for her efforts - she does it just because she believes in it, and wants to provide a better future for her children.

"The majority of our children are low income and receive free lunch," the nominator said. "Sonya says she’s teaching them how to feed themselves healthy food so they don’t have to get fast food from any of the minimart stores crowding their apartment complexes. She is also teaching them how to believe in an attainable future. She always says that teaching a child to plant a seed is teaching them how to grow money. Sonya is hoping to inspire children to pursue careers within the green industry or just to love gardening and grow food and protect the earth. She has made the Bullock children’s garden a wonderful space for our children and community. What she has done is amazing, and I love seeing the kids interact with her."

Although she has a classroom and is a classroom teacher, the kids still call her the garden teacher. She is even starting an afterschool club for the kids, just because they asked for it. Ms. Harris says that she does not need to be paid to help teach them about growing their own food and sustainability, since their excitement can’t be equated to money.

"I’m in awe of all she does and her passion for gardening," the nominator said. "She’s changed the entire community of Glassboro, and is helping to change other communities. She is mentoring schools and speaking around the country about the importance of school Gardens. She is an incredible teacher and I’m proud to call her colleague and friend."

Comments (41)

Erin Pimpinella Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Harris also hosted Glassboro’s first ED Camp on March 10. It was a huge success. I’m glad I was a part of it. Congratulations Mrs. Harris on this well deserved nomination.

Chris Kane Posted over a year ago

You would be far pressed to find someone that has a passion for Bullock Elementary School and the students that travel through their doors. When she came before the BOE and pitched her idea for the garden, many were sceptical but all were on board to give it a try. With Sonya in charge, I knew the program would not fail! She worked tirelessly on the program and still does. She has been an inspiration to other districts that are hoping to institute the program. She is an inspiration to teachers, staff, administration and community at large. I can not think of anyone more deserving of this award. She has changed MANY lives and that smile isn't fake...she wears it all the time! Simply love her!!

Teresa Thompson Posted over a year ago

Sonya Harris the garden teacher is every bit of incredible. Sonya is not only motivating, but opens creative thoughts in the mind of those who know her. I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know who she is, and that children truly matter to her. I sincerely believe she knows the mind is the door for every child to open; teach them how and they will succeed.

Meridith Daniel Posted over a year ago

Nearly five years ago, I heard there was going to be a Children's Garden at Bullock and Ms. Harris was heading the project to make it happen. She realizes the importance of creating a community through gardening and sees how involving the children in food farming makes them more apt to appreciate where their food comes from. My son has high functioning autism and as the special education teacher in the classroom in 2015-2016, Ms. Harris (and her teaching partner at the time, Mrs. Tees) made the classroom environment one of inclusiveness and love. The class was a family and they always encouraged creativity and focused on the strengths of each child in the class. Sonya Harris is what I think an educator should strive to be. She is a hero to my son and a forever friend to our family. She is an advocate, a creative soul, and someone that I feel like I'm better for knowing.

Grant H Kircher Posted over a year ago

Awesome work Sonya. Continue planting the seeds, for gardening teaches so many of life's little lessons.

Jody Rettig Posted over a year ago

Sonya Harris has changed the lives of first- through third-graders, empowering them to grow, maintain and harvest their own school garden. Now, she is turnkeying her experience across the Glassboro School District and sharing her knowledge with educators throughout New Jersey.

Ronald McHugh Posted over a year ago

My granddaughter is in Mrs. Harris's class and also stays after school with her for the Garden Club. I can't tell you how happy Olivia is to have Mrs. Harris as a teacher as well as working with her in the Garden Club.My Daughter told my Wife and I, Liv is planning to have a garden at home which she already is buying the seeds for. This is so great for all the children to learn something like this and be a part of it .Mrs. Harris deserves a lot of credit for all her time and hard work .She deserves to win. God bless

Alicia McHugh Posted over a year ago

Ms.Harris deserves this recognition. She continually goes above and beyond for not just the children in her class, or her school, but for everyone she encounters. The passion she conveys in all that she does truly inspires change. She is an ideal representation of excellence in an educator.

Shirl Prewitt Posted over a year ago

Ms. Harris is so deserving of this recognition. She spends countless hours devoting her time to the students. She takes pride in the development of the Bullock Garden and is excited to share this great experience with the students and community. She puts her all into everything she does and is committed to supporting her students in and out of the classroom.

Mindy Finore Posted over a year ago

Ms. Harris is an incredible teacher and person! She is so dedicated to her students and community! Ms. Harris is so deserving of LCOY!

E Kerr Posted over a year ago

Mrs Harris works tirelessly for her students. She involves her students in planning and involved the whole school and community with the garden. Children not in her class will come home talking about a variety of healthy foods they got to experience from the garden. She has heightened their awareness and community spirit, as well as their education!

Annette Posted over a year ago

Sonya is an all around incredible person. She’s dedicated, compassionate, smart and she just “gets it”. Anyone to cross her path and be under her instruction is truly fortunate. She has a huge heart, a kind soul, and an appreciation for the beauty of nature! Best wishes for what is to come, we love you Ms. Harris!!

Sarah Posted over a year ago

Definitely the perfect person for this award! Sonya’s devotion to the kids is one to admire! Congrats partner! You deserve this!!!

Barbara Jones Posted over a year ago

Sonya has been an inspiration to the Seeds to Success Youth Farm Stand project that is a 5 week summer paid program for 8 students at Glassboro High School. The selected students are educated on the gardens at both Bullock and Intermediate schools. Glassboro High School is currently trying to begin a garden project. Sonya's commitment and dedication is astounding and commendable!

Kassie Burt Posted over a year ago

Sonya's passion for Gardening is contagious. She has dedicated her time to creating a beautiful place for the students at the Bullock School. She has given students the chance to think about what they eat and how it is grown. The students have benefited in many ways from the work Sonya has done. She is a LIFECHANGER for sure!

Rona Johnson Posted over a year ago

Sonya believes in all that she does. She's a true champion!!

Lisa Montana Posted over a year ago

Sonya Harris, through her efforts and actions, has inspired me, not only to start an outdoor place of learning in my school's garden, but to instill a love of all things green in my students.

Renee Seabrook-Hart Posted over a year ago

Ms. Harris has done a tremendous job mentoring to our students the importance of working together for our Glassboro community and our environment. She is an asset to our school and our community and is an excellent selection for " Life- changer of the Year"..

Margaret Mattioli Posted over a year ago

Nice to see hard work and dedication acknowledged.

Teresa White Posted over a year ago

Sonya is an extremely positive person, an excellent co-worker, and a team player. She makes learning a fun experience for her students and teaches them that they can achieve anything if they apply themselves.

Maureen Morrison Posted over a year ago

The definition of dedication! Congrats Sonya, well deserved.

Melody Coates Olaye Posted over a year ago

Congratulations! Good luck!

Cheryl Tartaglione Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Sonya! What a beautiful honor! Keep looking through the green lens!

Nancy Posted over a year ago

Her efforts are commendable! So glad that she's been nominated.

Kelly Yanek Posted over a year ago

I think the concept of the children's garden is amazing, and the work Ms. Harris has done is wonderful. I love following the growth and progress of the garden and the work the students and staff are doing via social media. In a world full of stress, it is refreshing to be reminded of the positive and happy work students and educators are doing. Great work Ms. Harris and everyone involved with the Garden movement!!

Joan Mannino Posted over a year ago

Miss Harris is everything you imagine a teacher to be. Her innovated thinking is leading our children as well as our community back to nature. Congratulation Sonya, please accept my heartfelt wishes on this selection. You are an amazing woman who I believe this selection of “Life-changer of the Year” is long over due! Sincere best wishes, Joan

Sue Armenia Posted over a year ago

Sonya is an incredible teacher and person! She uses everyday moments to create lifetime lessons. The knowledge the children are gaining in her classroom and in her beautiful garden will last a lifetime. She's teaching them to use their minds, bodies, and souls to better the world around them! If we had more teachers like Sonya Harris, the world would be a better place!

Traci Posted over a year ago

Every school needs a forward thinking teacher like Miss Harris!!! Her dedication, caring and support for her pupils is amazing! I also love the after school program idea! Congratulations on the nomination and YOU ARE A Lifechanger!!!

Colleen Illi Posted over a year ago

Sonya Harris is supporting me every step of the way while I try to rally my students and community members to create a school garden. I’m not sure what I would do without her encouragement, cheerleading, wisdom, and friendship in this endeavor. Absolutely has my support 100% for #LCOY !!!

Gloria Goode Posted over a year ago

Sonya, congratulations! So very proud of you! You’re making such a difference in the lives of so many children. Your dedication and love is evident. ????????????

Leslie Hammond Posted over a year ago

Sonya is such a positive person with the right mindset needed to really make a change.

Erin Pimpinella Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Harris is inspirational. I know for a fact that many of my former Kindergarten students have benefitted from this Garden. Thank you for your love and passion for our Glassboro students.

Aileen Castro Posted over a year ago

Hands down - Sonya works endlessly to help promote her vision of accessibility for all students, and gardening is her vessel. She strives to make the garden a community effort and networks to establish relationships to help promote sustainability. She is selfless, student- driven and truly an inspiration. I’m proud to call her my mentor, colleague and friend.

Kelli Scharnagl Posted over a year ago

Sonya has been amazing to work with and her passion for gardening is evident in all that she does. She is extremely dedicated and spends countless hours planning ways to make our school garden benefit all of our community. She is teaching students beyond the books and the classroom in a real-world way how to eat healthier and provide for themselves, which is an amazing thing. So she is surely changing the lives of the students in a way that truly matters.

Missy Tees Posted over a year ago

The perfect nominee! This woman is amazing in so many ways. She is selfless, hardworking and will do anything to help her students. I've known her for over ten years and can attest that she lives for her students and the passion she has for gardening is contagious amongst her students. Working until 10 at school is almost a daily thing for her, as she works endlessly to do what's best for her students. She asks for nothing in return, as the smile and joy she brings to the students and families in the community is what drives her. I could not thing of a better person to receive this award. In fact, I thing it's long overdue. Your work, dedication and love for students is appreciated!

Christa taylor Posted over a year ago

Our kids have helped with the garden since it began and Miss Harris has been a wonderful influence on all three of our children of varying ages. This past school year our then third grader required a room change mid year , and found himself in her classroom. She made a HUGE difference in his year and in him. She has such a way of building a students self confidence and encouraging them to be the best they can be . They believe her, they listen and they do amazing things. Just like she does.

Teresa Brown Posted over a year ago

Sonya is well-deserving of this award! She is selfless in her networking and is always open to new ideas. Her attitude to get things done, has helped sparked multiple projects in the community. Teachers like Ms. Harris change the world by creating such good relationships with their students and community. The sky is the limit for Sonya and BGP Inc!

Onna Jones Posted over a year ago

Sonya is the most selfless person I know! She has amazing plans for the near future to better the lives of the children all over NJ, and eventually the country! She is by for the most deserving for LCOY

Danielle Matthews Arties Posted over a year ago

Sonya has managed to establish meaningful relationships with her students through an activity that many may have not been aware or showed interest in prior to this exposure

Barbara Steinbrecher Posted over a year ago

I personally know Sonya & she is truly dedicated to her children in they way. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award then her.

Jean Gold Posted over a year ago

#LCOY HANDS DOWN THE BEST EVER, Always thinking of the kidos! Luv her!?????????