René Wyatt Harris

Beech Hill Elementary School
Dorchester School District 2
Summerville, South Carolina

In her 13 years as principal of Beech Hill Elementary School, René Wyatt Harris has drawn on her experiences as a teacher and curriculum specialist to encourage out-of-the-box teaching methods that go beyond traditional standards to reach the whole child. In close collaboration with teachers and families, Harris launched the Lighthouses of Lifelong Learning program, which coheres instruction around shared values and principles that speak to the skills and capacities students need to develop to be well-rounded citizens of the 21st century. Central to the success of this framework has been Beech Hill’s whole-hearted embrace of Growth Mindset precepts, which empower students to take control of their learning and motivates them to persevere through personal and academic challenges. Harris encourages teachers to tap into this active learning engagement by viewing play and the classroom environment as learning tools using outdoor classrooms and interactive displays called the Third Teacher. Beech Hill has been recognized for many academic achievements during Harris’ tenure, including earning multiple ESEA/AYP Ratings of “A,” earning the Palmetto’s Finest Award in 2012, and being named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2018. Harris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Speech from the University of Alabama and a Master of Education from The Citadel in Educational Leadership and Administration and completed graduate studies for Initial Certification at Charleston Southern University.