By Tia Lynn Ivey
Stan Harrison, a biotech teacher at Morgan County High School, is preaching the good news of science to his students and fellow teachers across the state.
“I am evangelizing,” said Harrison, who sees a scientific revolution on the horizon that will change the landscape of America’s economy and medical industry. “It will be as significant as the industrial revolution was, and it’s coming fast. My goal is to get my students equipped with the skillset and training to take advantage of the new jobs that are coming, that will be higher paying jobs.”
Harrison’s passion for science is precisely what won him Georgia Bio’s Biotech Teacher of the Year award. The organization announced Harrison as this year’s recipient earlier this week. He will be presented with the award at the March 13 Golden Helix Awards & Annual Gala at Factory Atlanta in Chamblee. Harrison is honored to be chosen for this award.
“I was overwhelmed and very surprised,” said Harrison, who has been teaching at Morgan County High School since 2006. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. There are so many great teachers out there, I didn’t expect to win this.”
“I am very proud of Mr. Harrison,” said Dr. James Woodard, superintendent of Morgan County Schools. “ He began the program in 2014 to respond to the needs of Baxter (Shire) now Takeda. The program is preparing students for an awesome career in the biosciences.”
According to Georgia Bio, “The Golden Helix Awards celebrate the contributions and achievements of Georgia legislative, academic, corporate and other organizational leaders working to advance the growth of the life sciences industry and foster strategic partnerships that can create a healthier world. The event is expected to draw 300 of the state’s life sciences industry leaders.”
“I’m honored to be recognized as the ‘Teacher of the Year’ by Georgia Bio at the 2020 Golden Helix Award Dinner in March, honoring achievement and excellence in the Georgia life sciences industries,” said Harrison. “I’m grateful, but a bit nervous to be recognized in front of nearly 300 of the state’s life sciences industry leaders. This is a big tip-of-the-hat to Morgan ‘s biotech program and the academic and community supporting it!”
Harrison was selected as this year’s Biotech Teacher of the Year because he is a “biotechnology high school teacher who exhibits excellence in STEM teaching and support for the biotechnology pathway.”
The award aims to honor a teacher who fits the following criteria. “Experienced Biotechnology Teacher skilled in Program Development, Training, Project Management, and Professional Writing (Reports, Grants & Presentations). Strong research professional with a M.Ed. focused in biotech from The University of Georgia with ongoing RET Fellowships at Georgia Institute of Technology and the Regenerative Bioscience Center at U.G.A. Lead Instructor team at GaBioEd Institute and contributing member of Cell Manufacturing Technologies consortium.”
In 2003, Harrison began teaching, after spending a couple decades as a businessman, consultant and software developer. But he wanted to pursue a career in biology and teach it others.
“Biology has always been my first love,” said Harrison. “With teaching, I really believe you have to have a calling. And I did. I wanted to teach what I love.”
Harrison earned his Masters Degree from the University of Georgia and conducts research on stem cells and cancer for University of Georgia.
With the encouragement of Superintendent Dr. James Woodard and MCHS Principal Dr. Miki Edwards. Harrison set out to create one of the best biotech high school programs in the state.
“We wanted to build the finest biotech program in the state. If we haven’t done that, we’re pretty darn close,” said Harrison. “But we came from humble beginnings.”
Harrison remembers the days when the program held labs in a leaky storage room in the basement of the old high school.
“We called it the dungeon,” laughed Harrison.
Now, the the new high school boasts of three state-of-the-art labs, stocked full of the finest equipment to conduct a wide variety of scientific endeavors.
“The Biotech program encompasses a lot of things—it’s engineering with the biological sciences. It’s agricultural, forensic, genetic, and medical,” explained Harrison. “We are doing things that will blow your mind.”
Under Harrison’s supervision, students in the College and Career Academy program are raising adult stem cells, examining forensic evidence, splicing genes, and even raising tilapia. The program partners with both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Students pick a long-term research topic and present their findings at one of the colleges.
Harrison believes students in this rigorous program will be uniquely equipped to obtain well-paying jobs in the emerging biotech field.
“This is an opportunity,” said Harrison. “And I want our kids to be a part of it. I saw this coming a mile away. Georgia right now is number one in country for biotechnology.”
When students graduate from this program, they not only earn college credit, but come out as certified beginning level biotechnicians.
“It’s incredible the kind of opportunities this line of work will open up for our kids. I believe in it and that’s what I’m preaching.”