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Dr. Trista L. Harper


Principal at Manley Career Academy High School

Like many of Chicago Public School students, Principal Harper came from humble beginnings.  She was raised in a family of two brothers and four sisters who all attended Chicago Public Schools. She graduated from Taft High School in 1994. It was here that she learned about the impact that school structure and stabilization could have on any student walking across the threshold of their school of choice.  It was this foundation that helped pave the way to her educational journey.  Principal Harper’s public school education allowed her to attend Northeastern Illinois University, where she majored in English and Secondary Education.  She went on to earn a Masters and Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at Argosy University.  She then went on to National Louis University to receive her LBS1 certification.

Dr. Trista L. Harper professional experience started within Chicago Public schools teaching English at Simeon Career Academy.  She was hired as an English teacher and spent the majority of her time instructing and preparing students to be college and career ready.  At Simeon Career Academy, she worked on the school improvement team and created the high school curriculum for all levels of English.  During this time, she developed data driven instruction, created authentic lessons to enhance learning for her students, and implemented holistic approaches to teaching and learning.

After five years at Simeon Career Academy, Dr. Harper transferred to Percy L. Julian High School under the leadership of Dr. Harris.  During this time span, she helped to lead the ACT after-school program, developed common unit and assessment plans for grades 9-12, and created cross curriculum activities with the social science department.  It was at Julian High School where Dr. Harper was pushed into leadership.

In 2013, Dr. Harper finally received the opportunity to fulfill just one of her dreams.  She was accepted into the Houston Principal Internship program within Houston Independent School District (HISD).  During the summer of 2014, she received leadership training at Harvard University with other Houston fellows.  Later, she interviewed at Jake Yates High School in the historic Third Ward in Houston, Texas as a Principal Intern.  This is where she learned how to balance academics alongside a competitive sports program.

After completion of the program, Principal Harper moved from Houston to Saint Louis and Tulsa Public School where she brought about significant improvements in student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and curriculum development.  After her success in turnaround schools, she decided that she wanted to bring her wealth of knowledge back to Chicago.

Dr. Harper moved back to Chicago as an Instructional Leader within a neighborhood high school. Much of Principal Harper’s service has focused on improving educational outcomes, quality and services for at-risk youths. Trista has 20 years of direct experience in education, teaching life skill classes, providing real world application, implementing after-school programs, and college and career training to neighborhood students.  Many would say it is her passion and purpose that guides her work, while impacting educational minds in her path. She is a force worthy of all the accolades of someone whose vision has become a reality.

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