By: Kelly Gill
There are times in your life when you meet someone and it doesn’t feel like
happenstance. Such is the story the first time I met Suzanne Harrison. It began on a Saturday when I saw someone putting her campaign signs in a neighborhood near me as I drove to the grocery store on a Saturday morning. I had this strange feeling that I needed to stop and learn about her. I ignored the feeling and went on to the market. While in the produce section, I ran into a former teacher colleague. After talking about her recent retirement, she said, “Hey, there is a candidate running for the Utah House of Representatives that is very pro-education. You should meet her. Her name is Suzanne Harrison.” I chuckled at the irony. I decided that I would be brave and send her an email. I could ask her about her views on education and tell her about the dedicated group of teachers we have in Hope Street. Maybe she would be willing to meet us and talk about issues in education. On Monday, I returned home after work to find her campaign flyer in my mailbox: another reminder to email her. I went in the house to start cooking dinner and there was a knock on my door. Guess who was standing there!
Suzanne and I had a great conversation that day on my front porch. I found her
personable and caring. When she left, I knew that if she won, education would have a new advocate. I was so excited when I learned she had won! I wrote her and asked if I could introduce her on our website. I only asked her one question and she was so gracious in her response. I borrowed her biographical information from her website and then asked her to explain her thoughts on education.
Meet Suzanne Harrison (excerpts from her website)
I grew up in Provo where my parents both spent their careers working at BYU. I went to
Timpview High School and then attended Stanford University where I met my husband, John, who was raised in Centerville, Utah. After Stanford I graduated from medical school at the University of Utah, and completed my residency in anesthesiology at Harvard University. We’ve lived in District 32 for over a decade. Our children attend local public schools. I am a board-certified anesthesiologist at Riverton Hospital and Intermountain Medical Center. I also volunteer at our children’s schools and sports leagues and in our church. If you’ve met me, my children have likely been with me. They are the reason I’m running. They are my motivation every day. I will work hard for what is best for our kids and our community.
(This is the question I sent Suzanne.) What do you sense are the greatest issues facing our education system? How will you go about helping educators and students in our state?
I ran for office because my children attend local public schools and I volunteer in our schools. My daughter had 29 children in her kindergarten class, and I watched that teacher struggle to manage that many 5 year-olds with a wide range of skill sets the whole year. It wasn’t fair to the teacher, and it isn’t fair to our children. I never planned to enter politics, but it is amazing what you will do for your kids. I decided to run for office to try to make a difference on the issue that matter to my family and the kids in our community. Almost half of our teachers are leaving the profession within 5 years, many of our kids are struggling with basic proficiency, and too many of our kids and teachers feel unsupported in our current system.
We don’t give our schools, kids, and teachers the resources they need to succeed. We need more resources to make it to the classrooms where they can help teachers and our kids. I care about addressing our serious teacher shortage, overcrowded classrooms, and working to reduce unnecessary testing. We need to find better ways to attract and retain the best teachers and instill the joy of learning in our kids. As a medical doctor, I am also concerned about mental health of our young people. Our kids are hurting, and we need to help them be healthy. We need more social workers and mental health specialists in our schools. We can’t ask our teachers to be social workers, psychologists, school
nurses, counselors, as well as teachers. I don’t claim to have all the answers for how to best support our public schools, teachers, and kids. But I do believe in listening to educators and those with experience in our system. I expect people to listen to me when I am talking about anesthesiology, and I think lawmakers should do more listening to educators as well. You have experience and input that is needed to improve our educational system.
I have pledged to spend a day a month in our local public schools in my district in Sandy, and I hope to learn more each month I’m there. If any teachers are in Sandy or Draper, I’d love for them to reach out to me so I can come shadow them in their classroom.
I hope to listen, learn, and advocate for our kids and our community. I’m grateful that my
wonderful neighbors in HD 32 have given me the chance to serve.
Thank you for dedicating your lives to our most important resource — our kids! Thank you!
Suzanne Harrison would love to hear from Utah Teachers, so I hope you will take the time to meet her personally by visiting the Capitol during the 2019 legislative session or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A feature on our blog is not an endorsement- it is simply a chance for educators to become familiar with who is representing them on all levels of decision making.