Besides, being named one of the 11 finalists in the entire state is pretty impressive. This is the first year for the recognition.
Harber and the other finalists will be honored Sept. 18 at a reception following the annual state meeting in Columbia.
"I was surprised," said a modest Harber. "Being a finalist was pretty good, I admit that, but I didn't feel deserving at all. There are so many good teachers in this world. I love children, guess I could say that about myself."
But the truth be told, this isn't the first time she's received recognition for her dedication to education. After having earned a bachelor of science and master's degree in education, there was no doubt that she had chosen the right occupational path. For starters, she was in the first group of pilot teachers in the first Headstart program, having trained at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She later was instrumental in getting the program started in Sikeston in 1965.
She taught at the Fairview School between Sikeston and Matthews, then at the Miner School and for several years substituted for Sikeston Public Schools. She also taught second grade at South Grade and Southwest School from 1956-1980.
"When I was teaching, the children seemed to need to know you were interested in them and that you were there for them," she said. "They also need to know that you expect the best from them. You know what the needs are for a child to grow up and it doesn't matter how much education they get unless they have some morals taught to them. That's where it all starts, at the home. If respect is taught at home then you have respect at school."
Her advice for new teachers is to remember that the more calm the teacher is, the more calm the classroom will be. "I think that's a very important thing. And then try to go to school each day with your attitude in the right place. A teacher needs to go to school rested, a teacher doesn't need to go to school after having been up all night and that sort of thing. I think it's important to go to school with peace in your own heart. If you go to school just a little bit upset yourself, then it's easy to become upset with children."
Harber served as second grade level chairman and was on numerous school committees and textbook selection committees. She was active in the Missouri State Teachers Association and Community Teachers Association. Her involvement included civic clubs, church work and county extension clubs. From 1966-1967 she was secretary of the District Classroom Teachers Association.
After retiring, she and husband, Warren, joined the Missouri Retired Teachers Association in 1980. She was elected vice-president of the local SEMO Area Unit of which she served two terms as president. She was also elected treasurer, an office she had from 1987-1999.
Two high offices she has held include secretary of the state association in 1992 and treasurer of the Department of Retired Teachers in Cape Girardeau which she served from 1988 to present.
Harber has been a member of all the local unit committees, most often membership and hospitality.
"I am so proud of Jewel, to be chosen one of 11 finalists in the entire state of Missouri is really something," said Mary Ann Maevers, president of the local SEMO Area Unit of RTA. "She is just a remarkable person. She and Warren arrive early for RTA meetings, make the coffee, decorate the table and see that all is ready for the meeting. You can always depend on her. If Jewel is in charge you know it will be taken care of and I appreciate that as president."
Both active in the American Association of Retired Persons, she and her husband have attended AARP national workshops and worked as AARP tax-aides. Harber volunteers for Bootheel Counseling Services, Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice. She and Mr. Harber also are on the Retired Senior Volunteer Persons Council.
Yet Harber insists she isn't involved in that many organizations and groups, crediting her husband's help for her being in what she's in. "I'm not in that many things. Compared to a lot of other people what I do is very little." One of Jewel's greatest delights in retirement was teaching a teen-ager in Junior High who was losing her vision," said Maevers. "The student was very bright and made amazing progress. Helping the vision-impaired goes back to Jewel's high school days when a fellow classmate's sight was failing. Jewel tutored and helped her finish school. The two of them remain close to this day."
"Mrs. Harber spends countless volunteer hours with all of these endeavors with a very kind and gracious demeanor," Blair Moran wrote in his nomination letter. "Her career as an educator would be a model for any young person considering teaching as a profession."