Neighborhood: Tara Golf & Country Club
Neighbor since: 2007
Judy Harris’ students and friends have affectionately called her “Mama Judy” for years, but she truly lived up to her nickname two years ago, when the Sarasota-Herald Tribune named her Sarasota Mother of the Year.
Harris’ daughter, Denise Womble, nominated her for the award.
Harris was also named National Vocational Teacher of the Year in 1987.
When the registered nurse and former department chair for Allied Health Programs at Sarasota County Technical Institute accepted the award in front of 5,000 people in Dallas, a group of friends from Florida stormed the stage and handed Harris a bouquet of flowers.
Harris was elected to the Court of the Ladies for the Oriental Shrine of North America in 2012 in support of the Shriners Hospital for Children.
In her 60s, Harris earned a master’s degree in psychology online from Columbus University. She doesn’t use the degree for practical purposes — she got it for fun.
Harris has written two medical crossword puzzles and a novel, and she served two years as the co-chair of the Tara Golf & Country Club Communications Committee.
On her teaching philosophy:
“I believe in my students. You can’t be a friend to your students, but you can be a second mother. When you’re a nurse, you mother a lot of people.”
On her National Vocational Teacher of the Year honor:
“There was a one-hour interview, and you had to show legislative knowledge, too. When they called me on stage out of five finalists, I thought, ‘Oh my god.’ And then the flowers came. I asked my friends, ‘What if I hadn’t won?’”
On her neighborhood, Tara Golf & Country Club:
“It’s a warm and friendly community, and it’s not too big or too small. It’s just really welcoming.”