Harold Barber

Occupation:  Principal, JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres
Education: Springbrook HS, Edison HS of Technology (Automotive Technologies) Frostburg State University, Bowie State University

You come from a family of educators.  Did you know from a young age that you would have a career in education?
No, I didn’t. I majored in sociology and minored in Spanish in college, and I wanted to work with diverse populations in some capacity. It wasn’t until my senior year when I gave a presentation that my friends suggested education. It was too late to change majors, so after graduation I started working with kids who were in foster care and group homes. I went back to school and earned my first master’s degree in special education.

You have more than one master’s degree?
I started off as a teacher and then moved up to leadership roles as a principal and central office administrator. So I continued my education and earned a second master’s degree in school administration and supervision and then a doctorate in urban educational leadership.

You went through the automotive program at Edison.  How did that come about?
I was definitely going to college, but I also wanted to learn other things so I wouldn’t be locked into one career. My parents and I knew nothing at all about cars, and when I learned about this program, I thought it would be interesting and come in handy. Going through that program was one of the best decisions I made.

In what ways?
The skills I learned and experiences I was introduced to continue to help me today. As a senior, I interned as a mechanic’s assistant at a car dealer, but within a week I was moved to the front and promoted to a service adviser. I had to wear a tie, learn that side of the business, and deal directly with the public. The level of responsibility and professionalism expected of me—a high school kid—was intense! I grew up fast, but as a result I could handle anything that was thrown my way. During college, I earned money by fixing classmates’ cars, and every summer I went back to the dealer for my customer adviser job.

The soft skills I learned through the program have been so beneficial. I learned self-discipline, self-confidence, and how to work with all kinds of people. I also learned the importance of setting goals and high standards and putting forth 110 percent effort in everything I did. I held a leadership position in a student club at Edison and honed my written and oral communications skills. Every day as a principal, I’m using the skills I cultivated through my experience in a career program when I was in high school.

What kind of advice do you give to the students in your school?
First of all, I tell my students not to limit themselves and to keep all options open because life can take you down many different paths. I try to expose my elementary students to careers now so that they can see the possibilities and opportunities available to them. I want my students to dream big so they can compete with the best and brightest for success in college and in a career that fulfills them.