MILTON, Ga. — It’s been three years since Chris Harbour began working for the Walt Disney Company, but the former Northwestern Middle School drama teacher says he still sees his time at Milton as one of the highlights of his life.
“It was an absolute dream job, everything about it,” Harbour said. “And I loved all the students I worked with… Sometimes I do still miss that program and my trailer.”
After graduating from Columbus State in theatre education in 2005 and a short stint at as a drama teacher in Alabama, Harbour was drawn to Fulton County in 2007 on rumors that the school system was attempting to start a new drama program at Northwestern Middle School. It was the perfect storm of creative freedom for Harbour.
“I fell in love with Northwestern,” Harbour said. “Whoever they hired would have the freedom to create everything: the curriculum, the extracurricular program, all of it. There would be no former teacher to compare to. Everything was fresh and me being still practically right out of college it was a dream come true. We dubbed the new theatre troupe the Wildcat Players.”
During his time with the program, Harbour helped produce plays, musicals and student showcases as well as started a Junior Thespian troupe. He also created an improvisation troupe and encouraged students to read stories at a nearby elementary school.
“The school, community and students completely embraced the idea of doing theatre at NMS, helped largely by the already successful program at Milton across the street,” he said. “It never ceased to amaze me what middle students were capable of, and the time spent in the Milton community was such a period of growth and one that I always look back on with gratitude.”
Harbour says some of his favorite memories at Northwestern include teaching his eighth grade Connections class and producing the “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” musical his second year, where he saw the chorus and drama departments work together.
While teaching, Harbour also became increasingly involved in Atlanta’s theatre scene, volunteered at Children’s Healthcare and worked at Young Life. Eventually, he said, all of his passions came together, and he realized he could fulfill a childhood dream: working for Disney.
That dream came true in 2017 when Harbour began working for the Disney English program to teach English as a second language in China. He uses Disney’s familiar brand and characters to teach the children through acting, songs and games.
“It's education, but it's also theatre for the very young, and it's totally interactive to build their confidence in the language,” he said.
His current role has taken him to countries in East and Southeast Asia as well as Europe.
But the past 25 years of Harbour’s life, in Milton and at Disney, would not have been possible without a lifesaving kidney transplant he received from his mother in 1995 when he was 12 years old. It’s an experience that’s taught him to pursue his passions and be thankful for everything he has in life, Harbour says.
“I suppose it's easy to hear that story and think whoa this terrible thing happened, and it did, but my outlook on life was so rich in spite of it,” he said. “I had been given a second chance… The past 25 years have had their ups and downs, sure, but I'm thankful, not for the sickness itself, but for the life that came from it… [I’ve been able] to connect with people where they are and just experience a moment in their stories, as I keep living mine, for however many more years I may have.”