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There is No Place like HOME
There Is No Place Like Home
Being a Chief for North Jackson High School assistant principal is simply a way of life. He will quickly tell you that having the ability to return to his Alma Mater and get to work at North Jackson High School has placed him exactly where he wants to be. Harding, a 2003 North Jackson graduate continued his education at Jacksonville State University where he earned degrees in Collaborative Education and Educational Leadership.
Before he was an official student at North Jackson, he and his older brother Jeremy could be found during the summer at the school with their dad, Ken Harding. They would wax floors, pull weeds, pick up rocks, mow the grounds, and just about anything their dad could think of to get them out of his hair....and into Tater's (the custodian). Being a Chief to him is something a little more than just where he went to school. North Jackson and the people in it were a huge part of his life growing up. At one time in his life, it was probably safe to say that he had been paddled by half the staff here. His former agriscience teacher, Mr. David Smith married him and his wife in 2012. His ninth grade algebra I teacher is now the librarian, Ms. Nikki Hicks, and his basketball coach,Tony Brown, is now the counselor. He considers himself just a blessed individual that just so happens to work here at his Alma Mater.
Mr. Harding says he draws inspiration from former teachers, coaches and his parents. Seeing each of them make a difference in the students' lives in the surrounding communities is what motivated him to be an educator. He really tries to connect and establish positive relationships with his North Jackson students. He wants them to look forward to coming to school, and look forward to learning from the people here in this building. He believes that North Jackson has the best people and the best work atmosphere he has ever seen. Everyone at North Jackson is positive and supportive of each other. He credits this atmosphere with the attitude of North Jackson principal, Mr. Paradise. Harding says that he is an example for the entire staff and learning from him will pay dividends for everyone.
When asked about his work motto Mr. Harding replied, "I'm not sure if I have an actual work motto...partly because I truly do not look at this as 'work'. Some days are longer than others and maybe a little higher on the blood pressure scale, but I really love what I do." If he had to sum up his "idea" of a work motto with a quote it would be what he has hanging in his office. "I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, Because of you, I didn't give up." This is his driving force every single day.
As an alumnus, one of Mr. Harding's goals is to increase alumni involvement at North Jackson.
His goal is to get as many alumni back on campus as he can. Last week the North Jackson Homecoming football game was the first year to actually organize a "true homecoming" and it was very successful. The 1993 4-A State Championship team was recognized on the field prior to the game which brought Coach Phillip Lolley and several players back to R.D. Hicks Stadium. The administration gives a lot of credit to the NJHS SGA, and sponsors Jamie Batey, Beth Strickland, and Nia Stivers for putting in the long hours making sure everything went smoothly. Mr. Harding wants alumni to have the opportunity to return to NJHS and see all the positive things going on in the school, while also connecting with classmates they may not have seen since their days as students at North Jackson High School. The Homecoming parade was hosted by Bridgeport this year was a huge success. The communities really showed up and made the parade something special that will be remembered. The parade route will alternate each year between Stevenson and Bridgeport. He really wants homecoming to be the time where we recognize each class in five-year increments and hopes the class presidents will try and have their reunions during this time. For twenty-nine years, classes have had their reunions in conjunction with Depot Days during the summer, which is a really fun event that our community puts on, but he wants the alumni and former students to get back on campus and be a part of new school traditions and activities. Looking ahead to next year, the plan is to recognize the classes of 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 by having a designated area in the bleachers for them to sit together as a class and inviting them to participate in the parade. He said that North Jackson is also in the beginning phase of creating an alumni association, so be on the lookout for that information coming out in the near future.
While a student at North Jackson High School, Mr. Harding played football, baseball, basketball, and a golf tournament or two. He was also a member of the Beta Club. He was a member of the 2002 State Runner-Up football team and that loss still haunts him to this day. He is married to NJHS alumna Haley Houser Harding and they have two wonderful children, Tucker and Tatum. Mr. Harding will quickly tell you "It's a great day to be a CHIEF" and "There is no place like home."