Skip to content

Milby HS alumna plans to lead her old school one day

2014 February 20
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other members of Team HISD, Milby High School Assistant Principal Charlotte Harris talks about what spurred her to learn another language, why she’s so passionate about serving the Milby community, and which former assistant principal she still considers a mentor today.

You’ve been at Milby High School since 2002, first as a teacher, later as a Title I coordinator, and now as an assistant principal. Why are you so dedicated to serving this particular community?

Charlotte Harris

This is the community I grew up in. I learned how to be an adult here, as well as a good student in college, an excellent teacher, and a good administrator. I feel like Milby has given me so much that I’m obligated to give back.

I truly, truly care about this community. We’re a big family here. Anyone who comes into my office, I want them to feel that. Sometimes we have to discipline family members, but they know the next day, they’re still a part of it. I may push you to do better, but I will help you up when you fall down and applaud you when you accomplish things.

Besides, I know where these kids are coming from, because I was right there. I know what it means to go to lunch but not be able to eat because you don’t have the money even for the reduced-price lunch. I know what it’s like to want to participate in after-school activities but not have the bus fare to get back home.

I’m also an example. I’m living proof that with hard work and dedication, you can be anything you want to be. The kids get to see what I’m doing every day. And in my office, I have all of my degrees up on the wall, and kids are always amazed to see my high school diploma there, too. But at the time, that was a major accomplishment.

Those degrees also open up conversations with students, like about “What’s a bachelor’s,” or “What’s an MBA,” and “What’s the difference?” And they get to see that it all started with a high school diploma from Milby.

You started working at Milby just a few years out of high school. Did you always want to be an educator? If not, how did your path lead you here?

I graduated in 1999, but I was confused in college as to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At one point, I thought I wanted to go into accounting; at another, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Finally, I decided that I wanted to be a school counselor, so my major ended up being psychology.

Then I discovered you had to teach for two or three years to become a counselor, and I was sad because I thought that meant I had to teach elementary, because there was no psychology content area that I could be certified in. Then I found out I could teach social studies, since psychology is considered a social science, so I kind of fell into history.

I understand you’re also a graduate of Milby. What’s it been like, walking through the halls of your old school as an adult?

Well, I will tell you that on my first day, I was walking into school to get to my class early and a teacher kicked me out of the building, thinking I was a student. Then a few days later, I went into the teacher’s lounge to heat up my lunch and I got kicked out for the same reason. But I understand where they’re coming from. I looked really, really young when I was in college, and once I set them straight, they had that ‘a-ha’ moment.

It has been different, though. I remember walking the halls the first year and reminiscing. But the beauty of it is that when I had questions, I could still go to my former teachers and ask for advice, even if they weren’t in the same discipline. They were more willing to help me and they taught me how to be a better teacher.

I hear you learned to speak conversational Spanish in order to better serve your students and their families. Why was that important to you? And are you fluent now?

I’m not fluent to the level where I could be an interpreter, but I can hold a conversation. I actually started learning Spanish when I attended Milby so I could talk to my friends. Spanish is such a rich language that I just fell in love with it. I continued my studies at UH, but a lot of times in classes, you learn the book side of it, so I had to have conversations with my best friend, Sandra Arredondo, who’s an AP in Galena Park ISD.

In order to really help a community, you need to know the language and the culture. It shows a sense of respect, that you have something in common. Even if I don’t understand every single word, parents know that I get the gist of it and it puts them at ease. They feel more comfortable and confide in me more, so I’m able to help them.

Wait. Was Sandra one of your classmates at Milby?

Yes. We met here in the tenth grade, and we went through UH together. She was in my wedding and I was in hers. I tried to get her to come be a co-assistant principal with me here at Milby, but she loves Galena Park, and she’s doing well there.

Still, I’m not the only person who has come back. We have coaches, clerks, tutors, and also family members who graduated from here. This is a place where people send their children because it’s a tradition. And there’s an expectation that when I have kids, they’ll come here, too. They don’t have a choice. (laughs)

Your principal, Roy de la Garza, jokes that you are just “waiting for him to die” so you can take his job. Is there any truth to that?

(laughs) Yes. My former principal, Richard Barajas, he was my mentor, and a father figure to me. He was actually my assistant principal when I was still a student, and he taught me everything I needed to know and pushed me into leadership roles, so I’m really grateful for that. One time I told him, “Mr. Barajas, when you retire, I’m taking your position.” I just didn’t expect him to retire so soon! Roy is great, though, and very compassionate, so that’s good. I want to make sure Milby’s in good shape for when I take it over.

Do you have any hidden talents? Tell me something about yourself that would surprise people if they knew it.

I used to be really, really shy, and then I joined this drama team in church. I was really, really terrible, just horrible, so they only gave me tiny little parts where I only had to say like one word or something. But then, my senior year, I started to come out of my shell a little, and blossom in drama. I began to get lead roles. I also used to rap at church. I was in a rap group and we had a little routine.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
17 Responses leave one →
  1. Rebecca Wells permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Love this story! Mrs. Harris is simply awesome!

    • Mary Smith permalink
      February 21, 2014

      Fantastic article about you, Charlotte! You are awesome!

  2. Irma Solis permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Wow, I used to work with Charlotte at Mitchell Elem. I lost touch with her over the years, and reading this puts a great big smile on my face because I knew she was meant to do great things! Keep up the great work!
    GO BUFFS!!!

  3. Ashley Duran permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Great story Mrs. Harris-Cross!

  4. Virginia Roman permalink
    February 21, 2014

    So proud of all your accomplishments!! Not surprised because you were always a dedicated young person in church. Knew you when you were a teen and now to see you as an adult making a difference in our S.E. community is nothing but amazing. Our children are blessed to have mentors like you around them.

  5. February 21, 2014

    I am so GODly proud of Charlotte Harris. As a child, I knew she was a go-getter and that she would be a difference maker. Keep up the good work. Charlotte is truly blessed to be a blessing.

  6. Bill Baker permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Your star shines brightly as an outstanding tribute to the fine teaching and administrative body here at Milby High School. I hope your dedication, courage, and perseverance inspire others to achieve as you have, not only career-wise, but especially learning a foreign language as an adult. Congratulations on a career path filled with promise and leadership.

  7. Ms. Willie Ross permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!

  8. Sandra A. Rodriguez permalink
    February 21, 2014

    It’s truly a joy to see my best friend highlighted in this article. She has been my friend for over 15 years and since day one, her caring soul has never changed. Charlotte is a person who will go above and beyond to help others. She states she struggled to find her career path but I think she’s exactly where she’s meant to be. Our students today, particularly those of the Milby community, need positive roles modelsand people who will tell them that there’s more beyond Broadway and 610. I’m proud of all of her accomplishments, which I know she worked long hours to achieve, and support all her future endeavors. Way to go, Charlotte! You deserve this and many more recognitions. I tip my hat to you!

  9. Julissa Alcantar permalink
    February 21, 2014

    It has been a pleasure to meet and work with Charlotte! Keep working hard, keep your eye on the goal and know it will one day be yours! Keep smiling and never forget what drives you!

  10. Sondra Comore permalink
    February 24, 2014

    I am so proud of my big sister (my only sister). You are doing so well and I am proud of you. I did not attend Milby (GOOOO WORTHING) but I know that you make a difference there and you are right where you need to be. Knowing that you are there, I can almost promise you I will send my kids there.

  11. Joanne Golden permalink
    April 7, 2014

    A beautiful story, Charlotte, and well-told. I taught English and French at Milby from 1992-2006. Those years contain some of my most cherished memories as a teacher. I don’t know you, but I remember your face, that smile, and your name. Best wishes to you as you carry on the unique and wonderful spirit of Milby. Such important work it is! I’m so pleased to see that it is alive and well after all this time. Congrats!

  12. Mary Valenzuela permalink
    April 23, 2014

    Mrs. Harris is an awesome human and am very glad to have meet her in my son’s school years thank you Mrs. Harris for all you do !!!. and YES you will be a great lead at Milby High School

  13. Criscilla Matamoros Luna permalink
    May 5, 2014

    Wow I am so proud of you Mrs. Harris!!!! =)

  14. Ericca Thompson Tucker permalink
    June 19, 2014

    Congratulations! You are truly made for the path you are walking. God bless and continue to shine as none other. Great Article.

    August 25, 2014

    OMG!!! I was in band with Charlotte Harris and also graduated with her. So good to see how great she is doing. Great to see you have not changed and that you are still so sweet and kind hearted. 🙂

  16. Tra'Nisha Willrich permalink
    December 29, 2014

    I am beyond proud of your achievements. You were such a great role model when I was in high school and fun to be around. Great story and congradulations to you.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS