Services set for retired teacher

Sandra ClarkWest Knox

Polly Anna Harris was ‘the best’

Funeral services for Polly Anna Harris will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 19, at Church Street United Methodist Church, 900 Henley St., with the Rev. Dr. Charles Starks presiding. The family will receive friends in the Church Life Center immediately following the service.


Mrs. Harris, 89, died April 14 at UT Medical Center.

Rusha Sams, a teaching colleague at Bearden High School, said, “Polly Anna Harris was just the sort of person Wilma Dykeman Stokely would have called ‘The Tall Woman.’ Not only did she command attention when she entered a classroom, faculty lounge or gathering of teachers, she deserved that attention.”

Former student Missy Morris, who now teaches statistics at Haslam College of Business at UT, paid an amazing tribute online:

“I don’t recall the best picture or best actor in 1982. Nor do I recall the most popular song. Frankly, I don’t even remember who the governor of TN was at this time. However, I do recall that I had Mrs. Polly Anna Harris for Algebra 2 at Bearden High School in 1982; and that I had a light bulb moment that I was meant to do something with math in my lifetime. She was the best. She also used to come in for breakfast at Shoney’s on Walker Springs where I was working through college and she and her husband would leave me big tips! I will never forget her.”

Sams went on to say, “Her award-winning style in the classroom earned her the respect of the brightest students at Bearden High as well as those struggling to comprehend even the most basic of math skills, a style that earned her the 1984 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching.

“But Polly Anna was remembered also for just ‘being there.’ Always in attendance at events featuring her students, Polly Anna could be seen at concerts, athletic events and drama productions at the school as well as community events sponsored by Leadership Knoxville, an organization that tapped her for membership in its early years.

“She loved reminiscing with the BRATS, the Bearden Retired Active Teachers, often attending luncheons so she could ‘catch up with everyone.’ Polly Anna was a lady who commanded attention and respect not only for her knowledge of math but also for her genuine interest in everyone she met.”

Mrs. Harris was born in Atlanta in 1929. She received her bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College, majoring in mathematics and physics, and was valedictorian of the class of 1950. She married her childhood sweetheart, the late David J. Harris, and the family moved to Knoxville where she gave private piano lessons while raising three children.

She earned her master’s degree in math from UT in 1968 and joined the math department at Bearden High School in 1970, where she taught for 23 years. Upon retiring, the mathematics wing at Bearden High was named for her, and each year the Polly Anna Harris Mathematics Award is presented to a senior student.

She is survived by sons David Jr. and Frank Harris, daughter Paula Ann Harris Morrison and their families. Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel handled the arrangements.

Interment and graveside services will be held Saturday, April 21, at noon at the City of Decatur (Ga.) Cemetery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *