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Deb Harder has worked in GIPS since 1980.
Deb Harder has worn many hats during her career in the Grand Island Public Schools.
Harder has taught kindergarten, first, third, and sixth grade at Seedling Mile Elementary School; was an administrative intern at Stolley Park Elementary School; and served as principal at Stolley Park, Starr, and Gates Elementary Schools before becoming director of elementary teaching and learning in 2005.
Harder also was the senior administrator for teaching and learning services during the 2008-2009 school year, assuming many responsibilities usually assigned to the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
"I tried to make it more of a team approach," Harder said. Being in charge of the department's budget "felt like a huge responsibility. I took it very seriously."
Harder originally planned to pursue a career in secondary education, but a relative encouraged her to focus on elementary education because of her affinity for younger children.
"I love children. They are stress relievers for me," Harder said. "The daily interaction with students and teachers is what I enjoy the most. Each conversation is special in its own way."
She likes working in GIPS because of the focus on students.
"GIPS staff members are student-oriented, have strong work ethic, and do what it takes to get the job done," she said.
One of Harder's responsibilities is supervising elementary school counselors and school social workers. The school social worker program "has created an avenue for reaching out to families."
Harder also works with the school district's attendance court, which targets chronically absent students.
"Poor attendance is a symptom of something else that is happening in a family. When the true issues bubble up during the attendance program process and we are able to help a family, we have experienced success," she said.
Other job responsibilities include K-12 language arts, K-12 social studies, the teacher mentor/mentee program, instructional coaches, the school improvement process, elementary principals, professional development, elementary school students' parents' concerns, the Boys Town education model, the Differentiation Team, and the learning portion of the school district's Web site.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kearney State College (now UNK) in 1974, Harder taught reading in the Palmer Public Schools, then worked as a substitute teacher, fourth-grade teacher, and reading teacher in the North Platte Public Schools. She joined the Grand Island Public Schools, where she was a teacher, administrative intern, and elementary school principal. She received a master's degree in elementary education from Kearney State College in 1979 and a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 1991.
Mementos from former students line the walls in Harder's office. Several are now teachers.
"I love that they are now contributing to the future of our country as they touch the lives of their students and families," she said.
Two of her former sixth-grade students are now married to each other. Their oldest child received a Standard of Excellence Award from the district this year.
"It was a thrill to see them at the ceremony along with a set of this student's grandparents, with whom I worked as parents," she said.
"A former student recently told me that I was the reason she loves to read. She also said that she became a teacher because of how I was able to differentiate for her when she was a student. I helped her to believe in herself," she said.
Harder is a member of the International Reading Association, the Central Nebraska Council on Reading, Phi Delta Kappa, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the Nebraska Association of Elementary School Principals.