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Okefenokee Technical College Names 2012 Instructor of the Year


Derrell Harris, an instructor in the Computer Information Systems (CIS) program, was selected by a panel of judges as the Okefenokee Technical College 2012 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Education recipient and will represent OTC in the Rick Perkins Award competition, a statewide program initiated by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to honor outstanding instructors at the System's 25 member institutions.

OTC President Dr. Gail Thaxton described Mr. Harris as “an ideal candidate to represent Georgia’s system of technical colleges. He is an outstanding instructor and well deserving of this recognition from his colleagues and TCSG.”Derrell Harris

Rick Perkins Award candidates are nominated by OTC faculty and staff and selected by a panel of community and business leaders from Southeast Georgia. Harris, who teaches on the Waycross campus, will travel to Tifton February 23 for the regional competition.

Harris has been an instructor at Okefenokee Tech since 2001. A Brantley County native, he holds an AAS degree in networking from Okefenokee Technical College, a master’s degree in secondary education from Valdosta State University, a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Georgia Southern University, and an AS degree in chemistry from Waycross College.

In addition to holding four degrees, Harris has earned numerous vendor/industry certifications, including CompTIA credentials in Network+, A+, and Security+; Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist in Client, Network Infrastructure, and Server Administration.

He earned credentials as a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor (CCAI) for Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) from Florida Community College for 2001-2002 and Fundamentals of Network Security from Dekalb Technical College for 2003.

He is currently a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor (CCAI) for Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) and for Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) Technology.

“Okefenokee Technical College is proud to announce that Derrell Harris will represent OTC in this honorable state competition,” says Danita Cannon, vice president for academic and student affairs. 
“Mr. Harris has worked tirelessly to ensure enrollment growth in the CIS program, direct the program with appropriate technology upgrade choices, educate himself on the newest industry technology standards, as well as obtain critical certifications for program credentialing,” “He is dedicated to serving students by providing quality instruction, assisting them with valued certifications, and helping them find employment in their field of study.” 

Harris is an OTC graduate of the program he now teaches and has used the experience to improve student learning and enhance the CIS curriculum. He co-authored select parts of the Cisco Networking Academy Program’s CCNA curriculum and realigned OTC’s CIS curriculum to meet the needs of companies that employ OTC students for Information Technology (IT) jobs. Although he possesses a number of solid teaching traits, his knack for using the familiar to teach a complex unknown is common knowledge to both students and faculty alike. It’s a style and method that has yielded positive results. In fact, his students’ pass rate approaches 100% on associated certification tests overall.

Mr. Harris’s students brag on him quite often, as do many of his colleagues. The following quote is taken from Derrell’s nomination letter. “Derrell is a great instructor who has led many a student down the road to success. His infectious wisdom of learning is addictive and pronounced. He is a true educator from the word go. He has a wealth of experience to share and enjoys watching his students succeed in and out of the classroom.”

In addition to his responsibilities as a CIS instructor and advisor, Mr. Harris has worked closely with the OTC tech support staff over the past 10 years configuring, troubleshooting, and monitoring the Windows servers. He has also been closely involved in most of the IT projects implemented by tech support, assisting staff as much as possible.  

Harris’s relationship with the OTC tech support team has led to an increase in student opportunities to maintain equipment and work with OTC’s computers, network infrastructure, and end users to gain real-world experience.

Because Harris has a rare ability to develop and motivate highly focused teams and operational leadership, OTC networking students have succeeded in building and expanding the Cisco networking lab, improving the OTC wireless system, and providing quality IT service.

Harris has also mentored and coached Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) members in Network Design competition, yielding two 1st Place teams in national competition. In fact, every year OTC has fielded a Network Design team, the teams have placed in the top ten in national competition.

He has also mentored and coached numerous national winners – top ten finalists – in Computer Repair and Networking Concepts in PBL national competition.

Harris worked for the Pierce County Board of Education as a science and technology teacher before accepting full-time employment at OTC. Working at OTC has enabled Harris to do more of what he loves. “Technical education is my craft as well as my calling,” states Harris.  “I believe in our students and in technical education because of the success that it yields. I know that we make a difference in our students’ lives.”

Derrell and his wife, Emily, have three children: Megan (19), Emily (12), and Kennedy (3). His parents are Linda Harris and the late Kenny Harris.

Formerly known as the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence, the Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Education award was renamed in honor and memory of Thomas “Rick” Perkins, an instructor at West Central Technical College, who received the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence prior to his untimely death.

Amanda Morris Dryden, the OTC 2012 Rick Perkins Award Coordinator, organized the local competition and will continue to provide support and assistance to Derrell as he prepares for the next phase of competition.

The OTC faculty and staff congratulate Derrell Harris, the OTC 2012 Rick Perkins Award winner.

Derrell Harris, an OTC computer information systems instructor, has been named the college’s 2012 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Education recipient.
The award is presented each year to an instructor who has made significant contributions to technical education through innovation and leadership.

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