Wylie ISD is pleased to announce the induction of Ann Nickell and Don Harrison into the Wylie Hall of Honor. The induction ceremony is this Friday (9/22) during halftime at Wylie’s homecoming game at Hugh Sandifer Stadium. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.
Terry Hagler, spokesperson for the Hall of Honor selection committee, said this is the highest honor awarded to former staff members, alumni, and Wylie community members and recognizes the significant contributions these individuals have made on our schools, community, or society.
Although Ann Nickell had no intention of being an educator initially, she ended up teaching for 31 years with 23 of those at Wylie. “I loved the littles,” said Nickell about teaching reading and language arts to third graders for three-quarters of her career.
Nickell, who was hired by fellow Hall of Honor inductee Gary Hosch in 1994, knew how desirable teaching in WISD was and felt it was unlikely she would be hired to teach at Wylie due to the many universities in the area. However, when the opportunity arose, she took it and has been grateful ever since. “The parents were so supportive of their kids and what we did in the classroom,” said Nickell.
At the time, the school district was experimenting with the concept of team teaching, which Nickell wholeheartedly embraced. She thoroughly enjoyed working with her teaching partners and was thankful for their mentorship and generosity of their time. “Wylie was such a welcoming place. It was fun. It was like a family,” said Nickell.
Hagler said Nickell’s co-workers were equally encouraged and inspired by her. “It’s no coincidence they said that it was her that exemplified these qualities. She was a mentor to everybody on her campus. She was the lead teacher that they all looked up to,” said Hagler.
Nickell, who retired in 2017, said her students and co-workers enjoying what they did inspired her. “I wanted to be the best I could be so they could be the best they could be.” She enjoyed watching her students work hard in the classroom, tutorials, and at many of their extracurricular activities, but her proudest moments are when she sees her former students now and they share their accomplishments with her.
“They are doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers, coaches, financial advisors, business owners, receptionists, nurse practitioners, counselors, moms and dads,” said Nickell. She said she reflects on what they are doing now and thinks back to the small part of their lives she was able to share with them.
Unlike Nickell, Don Harrison, knew he wanted to go into education, but it wasn’t until Mr. Mike Kemps’ Introduction to Biology class at Abilene Christian University that he knew he wanted to teach biology. Saddled alongside his love for sports and great athleticism, it was a natural fit for him to also teach physical education and coach.
Harrison said he joined Wylie ISD in 1989 as the assistant principal for Wylie High School after he taught and coached at Killeen High School and his college alma mater. Harrison served as the principal at Wylie’s high school and then at the middle school. In June of 1992, Harrison was promoted to assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Technology, where he served for eight years before being appointed as superintendent for the district.
Before retiring in 2008, Harrison saw many accomplishments across the district. Most notably, he was instrumental in the installation of an infrastructure for computer networking in all the classrooms and offices as well as the installation of fiber at each campus to have district-wide network and high-speed internet capability, and he oversaw many construction projects across the district including improvements and additions to the high school campus and what is now West Junior High. Also, during his time, Wylie students excelled in the state testing program that culminated with Exemplary ratings at all campuses, a Blue-Ribbon High School designation, and a Lone Star Cup championship.
Harrison credits these achievements to a very supportive school board combined with a rich tradition of quality teachers, coaches, staff, and administrators. He said he has tried to carry what he experienced while working at Wylie into his future endeavors. “Loyalty, a team approach, and pride to make it better day-to-day,” said Harrison. “I try to carry that into what I do now.” He also said he is thankful to have been part of the best school district in the state of Texas and he attributes its success to the people in the district and the heart they have for their community and for family.
“Wylie is people. It’s the people that make Wylie the district it is.”
By Kristen Johnson