Q&A: Mrs. Harnish


Roberta Harnish, Science, checks her student’s homework during her fourth hour class on Dec. 15. Mrs. Harnish teaches Earth Space Science and Honors Anatomy and Physiology.

Ashley Kralik, Author

Q: How long have been at Lake Central?

A: “[I’ve been teaching at Lake Central for] 17 years.”

Q: What do you teach?

A: “This year I am doing Earth Science, and then I am doing Honors Anatomy and Physiology. I am licensed to teach Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Earth Science, and general Science from grades 5-12. What I have taught over the years changed a lot. The only courses that they added that I haven’t taught now is Zoology. I’ve been busy.”

Q: Have you always worked at Lake Central?

A: “No, I’ve started teaching at Bishop Noll in Hammond and taught there for 4 years.”

Q: What got you into teaching?

A: “I did not go into teaching right away. I was at home on break and I was talking to my former principal and he says, ‘So when will you become a teacher, let me know,’ and ‘I am like there’s no way, you have to be out of your mind.’ Long story forward, I got out of college [and] I was working for a doctor in Chicago. The doctor called me and asked if I had my teaching license yet and I said, ‘No, actually I don’t,’ and he says, ‘I need a Biology teacher.’ The job in Chicago wasn’t working out as well as I hoped and I thought, ‘OK I’ll do it, how bad could it be?’ Here I am 32 years later. He saw something that I didn’t even think about. He was right. So, I went to school. I got my teaching degree and then my masters in various fields.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?

A: “When people have been struggling with a concept get it. The moment when you’ve teaching, there is nothing better. I know what it is like to struggle to understand stuff. I had a hard, hard time in math. I had a hard time in Chemistry, so to be able to help somebody understand that type of thing is phenomenal.”

A: Do you think your students benefit from your classes that you teach?

Q: “Oh my god, I certainly hope so. I pray so. I’ve had students come back and tell me that they do. It is the ones that I don’t hear from that I wonder about. Some students you’re lucky, you’re very lucky, to have a relationship that extends past the classroom after they walked the next lesson, and that’s a blessing. I’d like to hope so for what the ones that do come back and talk to me and tell me, ‘Yes, this was good, [but] this would’ve been helpful if you did [this differently.’] I want that constructive criticism because the experience that you are all having now, as students, is completely different from when I was a student. I remember the struggles and I remember all of that, but it is a whole new world. Educationally, it is a new world, so we need that feedback and value that feedback. I want that feedback.”

Q: What was your greatest memory of being a teacher?

A: “There are so many, I can’t even begin to imagine. If I look at the fact that on average if I had 150 students a year and I’ve been teaching now for 32 years, that is almost 5,000 students. I am blessed to enter their lives even for a split second of their lifetime. You can’t pick one memory. All that being said, I was going on maternity leave years ago, and a young teacher was interviewing to take that position. As it turned out, it was one of my former students. She went into education, specifically Biology education because of me. That was my most humble moment and my scariest moment because the concept of me could possibly could have that big of an impact in someone’s life and not necessarily realizing it at the moment was very scary and very humbling. It makes you a better teacher as you are even more aware — that everything you’re saying, that everything you’re doing has the potential to impact someone, and you pray that you do it right. You pray that every day that you are doing something to help rather than harm.”