HPU alumna honored by state Baptist General Convention for service in education
The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) recently named Andrea (Akins) Harp ’79 as one of nine recipients of the Baptist Educators Serving Texans (B.E.S.T.) Educator of the Year Award.
B.E.S.T. awards are presented annually in recognition of individual Texas public school educators who live out their faith to the students they serve and of the positive contribution that Texas Baptist universities make in the public school systems of Texas. Nominees must be a teacher in a public school, a graduate of one of the nine Texas Baptist Universities and a member of a BGCT-supportive church.
“Teachers don’t do what we do for recognition,” Harp said. “It’s humbling and exciting to realize that maybe people can recognize and understand what teachers do and why we do it.”
Harp resides in Stanton with her husband, David Harp, pastor of First Baptist Church Stanton. She has taught English at Stanton High School for 26 years and has spent a total of 32 years teaching. In addition to her service in education, she is an active member of her community, playing piano at First Baptist Church of Stanton, teaching Sunday school and volunteering with the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU).
Harp said she views teaching as a calling not only to help students learn, but also to show students in her classroom that someone cares about them.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said. “I started teaching in the fall of 1979 and I believed even then that it was a calling for me, on several different levels. I felt a call to teach English, because I loved the language, but I also love the students as individuals – this is really where the calling comes in. I have not always done it well or perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always felt it was important to let every student know that they are important to me.”
A recurring topic of discussion in Harp’s classroom illustrates her care for each student.
“I’ve talked a lot with my students about their names,” she said. “I explain to them my name and where my name comes from. Then I tell them each of their names are important to me because that is representative of who they are.”
Dr. Gary Gramling, dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, director of Christian studies graduate programs and professor of Christian studies at HPU, was a classmate of Harp’s while at Howard Payne.
“Andrea has consistently shown a genuine love and concern for her students,” he said. “She has also always insisted on excellence and she works very hard to make sure that her students are well prepared. She is an outstanding teacher, but she may be known by her students even more for her character, always insisting that they show respect to their parents, their teachers and one another. Her life is one of unquestioned integrity and a true example for her students.”
Harp’s family has had close ties to HPU for more than 70 years. Her parents, Ferris ’52 and Ramona Akins ’52, are both HPU graduates. Harp’s sister, Ferrisa Childs ’86, is a graduate of HPU and currently serves as assistant director for student financial aid at HPU. Harp’s two other siblings both graduated from HPU – Ferris, Jr. ’75 and Martin ’84.