Dr. Herring has tirelessly worked toward establishing environments that foster gender
balance, cultural diversity, and socio-economic mindfulness. She possesses an impressive three-decade tenure in the educational sphere, where she has consistently focused on empowering students of all ages, to unlock their full potential. It was wonderful to talk with her.
If you had a million dollars to contribute to a cause, where would you choose to donate?
If I were fortunate enough to have a million dollars to contribute to a cause, my heart would lead me to donate it to research for a cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). You may wonder why I would select such a specific cause. Let me take you back to a date that is forever imprinted in my heart - October 20, 2019. That day, we were graced with the precious gift of Marina, our first granddaughter. Little did we know that just three months later, our joy would be tinged with a heavy dose of heartache.
In January 2020, our darling Marina was diagnosed with EB - a rare, life-threatening genetic disorder affecting the skin, until that point, the term "Epidermolysis Bullosa" was foreign to us. The doctors, with as much delicacy as they could muster, advised us against delving into Google for answers. But human nature prevailed, and we did just that. The heartrending images and stories we discovered left us with a profound sense of grief, coupled with a deep longing for answers about how this cruel disease might affect our beloved granddaughter. Yet all we could do was wait and pray.
Fast forward three years, and we now see a radiant, intelligent, hilarious, and breathtakingly beautiful little girl who is a beacon of hope and inspiration to our entire family. Her resilience in the face of unimaginable pain and discomfort has not only strengthened our faith but has also shown us that miracles do exist. Despite her ongoing struggles, Marina continues to thrive and meet all her developmental milestones, a blessing we do not take for granted. We are painfully aware that many other children with EB are not as fortunate as Marina, with some tragically not living to see their first, second, or third birthday.
EB occurs when individuals lack the crucial proteins needed to bind the skin's two layers together. The absence of these proteins causes the skin to tear, blister, and shear off, leading to immense pain, disfigurement, and wounds that may never heal, both internally and externally. Currently, there are no treatments or cures available for EB, making the quest for a cure all the more urgent. That's why, if given the chance, I would donate every penny of a million dollars to the EB Research Partnership. They are dedicated, as we are, to discovering a cure for this devastating disease. This would not be just a donation, but a beacon of hope, a promise of a future where no child or family has to endure the pain of EB. And this, I believe, is the best investment that could be made.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I were able to give my younger self advice it would be to embrace the belief that I am more than enough and to choose to live boldly. Having the belief that you are more than enough and choosing to live boldly are essential for unlocking your true potential and fostering personal growth. I believe this empowering mindset shifts one’s focus from self-doubt to self-confidence, allowing you to harness your unique strengths and talents. As a result, you become an unstoppable force, unafraid to seize opportunities, overcome obstacles, and create a meaningful impact in the world.
When I began to live boldly, that is when I began to cultivate true resilience and determination propelling me towards the life I deserved. A life of fulfillment, purpose and unapologetic authenticity. I would tell my younger self “You are more than enough, so believe in yourself, live fearlessly and let the world experience the extraordinary person you are.”
Do you have a favorite quote?
If you were to ask anyone in my family about my favorite quote, they'd respond with lightning speed:
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.
And let me tell you, I live and breathe those words every single day! Especially when it comes to my three fabulous daughters. I made it my mission during their formative years to show them that deep within themselves lies an incredible power to reshape their reality. Just by shifting their perspective, they can unlock a treasure trove of fresh insights, untapped possibilities, and the ability to break free from any limitations.
I wanted them to grasp this concept from an early age, and when I became an educator, that same quote became my trusty guide on the yearly adventure I embarked on with my students. I wanted them to believe that what seemed insurmountable (like learning to read or solving mathematical puzzles) was simply a stepping stone towards personal growth and achievements. Having a magical lens of perception can give you the power to change the ordinary into extraordinary, transform challenges into opportunities, and change failures into stepping stones to valuable lessons. This quote reminds me that the world is an enormous canvas, eagerly awaiting our unique interpretation to breathe life into its vast tapestry while we watch it change in wondrous and unexpected ways.
What is one thing that a student taught you?
A very powerful lesson that was taught to me by a student was the awe-inspiring power teachers hold when it comes to influencing students' belief in themselves. I once had a student reveal to me a crushing self-perception, borne out of a careless, more than likely unintentional, word or action of a previous teacher. They had been led to believe they were academically inept. It took an entire year, a year filled with patience, encouragement, and unwavering belief to mend the tattered self-esteem of this student and resurrect their faith in their own potential. I'm not exactly sure what happened to make the student feel that way, but what I learned in that moment is that a single word or gesture can leave an indelible mark on the souls entrusted in our care and we have to be ever so careful that those words and actions are building our students up and not tearing them down.
In the wake of this experience, I committed myself to an annual ritual, a personal goal set at the dawn of each school year. I pledged to confront a personal fear, to grapple with my own insecurities. This kept me rooted in the swirl of emotions my students faced when they
approached new learning experiences. It served as a constant reminder of my critical role in their lives. It also reminded me that like an architect I possessed the blueprint to mold young minds into creators, innovators, and leaders of tomorrow.
That student, with their innocent confession, had unknowingly thrust upon me a profound responsibility. It was a call to construct bridges of encouragement and inspiration. It urged me to cultivate a nurturing environment where each of my students could blossom into the best versions of themselves, unencumbered by self-doubt and fear. It taught me that every word, every gesture was a brick in the edifice of their self-belief, and it was my sacred duty to ensure that this structure stood tall and resilient.
How did you end up where you are today?
It's truly fascinating to look back and see how each and every experience in both my personal and professional life has shaped me into who I am today. You see, my journey began with a simple desire to align my work schedule with my children's school schedule. This led me down the path of education and before I knew it, I was standing at the front of a classroom. Once there, I felt a deep, undeniable calling to be an educator. The chance to play even a small role in molding our future professionals was both humbling and immensely gratifying.
In my classroom, I was keen on building a nurturing environment where each student felt seen, valued, and appreciated.
At the heart of this was my philosophy:
Take care of yourself
Take care of others
Take care of the environment
This triad formed the foundation of our classroom culture and it still guides me today.
Fast forward to now, and I'm in the exciting role of CEO and Co-Founder of Herring, Seminars & Consulting (HSC). The philosophy hasn't changed, it's just been adapted to a new setting. Instead of preparing students for the workplace, I'm now prepping workplaces for the brilliant students who may someday be their team members. We've stayed true to the original tenants, but tweaked them slightly to better suit our corporate environment. So, at HSC, we focus on self-awareness, team dynamics, and organizational impact.
If I were to draw a picture, I'd say my career has made a complete and beautiful circle. The skills I honed in the classroom now enable me to guide my clients on their own journeys of inclusive leadership. Just as I once fostered a supportive learning space for my students, I now strive to create an environment where leaders can grow and flourish. It's been quite a journey, and I can't wait to see where we go next!
What’s an urgent issue facing education?
Traditional methods of assessment, such as standardized testing and letter grading, have been mainstays of our education system for years. On the surface, these systems appear to provide a clear-cut way to measure student performance and learning outcomes. But in reality, they often end up focusing more on the ability to regurgitate information rather than truly understanding and applying it. And it's not just me saying this—numerous researchers and educators have raised concerns about the way we measure learning, suggesting that it's time for a significant change.
Why is this such an urgent issue? Imagine trying to construct a house with an antiquated tape measure from the 1800s—you'd encounter a slew of challenges. The same principle applies to education. Our world is evolving at breakneck speed, with a tsunami of new technologies, ideas, and challenges. To prepare our students for this brave new world, we need an updated toolset—and that includes new ways of assessing their learning.
Remember, our goal in education isn't to churn out cookie-cutter graduates. It's to foster diverse, creative, and critical thinkers who can adapt to an ever-changing landscape. To do that, we need an assessment system that celebrates unique talents, encourages intellectual curiosity, and recognizes different learning styles.
Our present assessment model paradoxically applauds a student whose grade dips from 96% to 94%, still an A. Conversely, a student making a commendable leap from 30% to 59%, a 29% increase, is still labeled a failure. We preach that making mistakes is a part of the learning process, yet we penalize these learning moments with failing grades while rewarding the pursuit of perfection.
That being said, I am not advocating for a total annihilation of traditional methods. They do hold their merits and offer valuable insights. However, they should be part of a broader, more holistic approach to evaluating student achievement. There are several exciting alternatives that we could explore. For instance, competency-based assessments focus on mastery of specific skills rather than time spent in the classroom. Digital portfolios allow
students to showcase their growth and creativity over time. Project-based assessments encourage critical thinking and collaboration—skills that are essential in the 21st-century workforce.
Moreover, we need to underline the importance of social-emotional learning and character development—attributes like resilience, empathy, and integrity. Although these traits elude the grasp of traditional assessments, they are foundational for student success in school and beyond. Education is a journey, not a race. And it's time we update our yardstick to measure the full breadth and depth of that journey.
Embarking on this task won't be a walk in the park. It calls for a collective effort, innovative thought, and harmonious collaboration among educators, policymakers, parents, and students. It is time to forge an assessment system that genuinely mirrors the diverse talents, skills, and potentials of students. It is imperative to remember that students are not just numbers on a page—they are the visionaries of tomorrow.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us. Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
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