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MHS Heroes: Letting Students Teach

Chandler Zimmerman

Chandler Zimmerman

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Marshfield, Mo – Since she was 5, Lori Herring has been teaching kids. When she was young, she would teach kids out of her parent’s basement in a makeshift classroom with a blackboard and pink stools her father made for her ‘students’ to sit on. She recalled, “Every child in my neighborhood could read before they went to kindergarten.” Since then, a lot has changed. She’s gotten a masters in Education and has now taught over 1,600 in the Gifted Education program at Marshfield schools between Kindergarten and sixth grade. Which doesn’t include the number of kids she taught as first grade teacher in 1980, as well as the number she is still teaching after sixth grade. After teaching so many, she is about to have former students who have grandchildren.

Not only does she teach Gifted Education (Gifted Ed.), she also reaches out to assist students who are “hungry to learn” but would not meet the cut for the Gifted Ed. program. Herring opens up her small amounts of free time during the day, for students to come in and ask her questions about anything, or just to talk about life. She develops a personal connection with students and keeps ‘blackmail’ on them. This is a concept where she keeps embarrassing but funny photos, writings or documents until their senior year of high school. After they receive their blackmail folder, they can reflect on who they have become as a person and see their development. Not only does she keep “blackmail” on them, but she also has the students tell her of their “Good News, Bad News, and Best Book”. During this period, students are able to share the good things that are happening, bad things that are happening, and what book they are reading. This allows students to get things off their chest; as many gifted kids have a problem of internalizing emotions and problems as well as how to identify emotions and deal with them per the Davidson Institute. Typically, this leads to many anxious or depressed Gifted Kids, however Herring counteracts this by asking about how they are doing in seven simple words, “Good news, bad news, and best book?” While most of her kids won’t realize the impact of these seven words until many years later, it truly is life-changing for a Gifted student if they are dealing with internalized emotions and problems.

She strives to “learn something new every day,” and believes this is accomplished from her job. She loves being challenged by students and challenging them to improve themselves. Herring keeps in touch with her students by opening up Friday after school for students to come by and talk to her. Even after years of them not being her ‘students’ she still asks them, “Good news, bad news and best book?” Not only this, but she has dedication to her job. When she taught first grade, she would only show up to school five minutes before school starts and stay 10 minutes after until she could leave. However, now she gets to school almost an hour and a half before school starts and typically leaves an hour after it ends. This isn’t just a job for her, this is her life. She puts everything into it, and lets her passion consume her. However, this love for her job doesn’t only occupy the school, she also takes current and past students on field trips to places, ranging from castles to the capitol of Missouri.

While she only teaches 2% of the general student population, her teaching has a far greater range of impact that is unmeasurable. If you ask any student who has and/or had her, they will all say something along the lines of what Jaron Harrod said, “She completely changed my perspective on the world, and allowed me to develop as a person while having fun.” This message is almost recited word-by-word from her past students, who have developed a bond with her, and have memories of the trips they take. One thing is universally agreed about her, she has the best intentions for each and every person she meets. When getting ready for the interview she asked, “Is the t-shirt a problem?” The t-shirt she was wearing was the mathematics team t-shirt, a team she tutors. She was concerned that it would look as if she has little regard for the interview, or that she would look bad. The t-shirt is a perfect representation of who she is; someone who is constantly helping out others, someone who is far too busy working with others to be caught up about what she is wearing unless the situation calls for it.

One of her mottos is to, “Always be flexible, it can never hurt you to be flexible.” Herring lives by this quote, whenever someone needs something she works her hardest to help the person. If something unexpected comes up, Herring is quick to change things on the fly to accommodate the situation.  She is quick to help others and make sure she’s fixing problems, instead of making them.

Below is an edited conversation with Herring.

Zimmerman: What passion called you to this occupation?

Herring: I have always wanted to be a teacher, anytime anyone asked from the time I’ve been small, I have always wanted to be a mommy and a teacher. Every child in my neighborhood could read before they went to Kindergarten. Because we had a schoolroom in our basement, my dad put up my blackboard and made pink little stools for all of them to sit on.

Zimmerman: How has your job changed since you started?

Herring: In the beginning, in 1983 when we were planning this, it looked like it would just be the core students we were assigned, but as we talked it over we decided it needed to be more of a resource classroom. So that, if we were only going to be serving the top 2 percent of the population, there were going to be other students who were hungry for learning coming to me and there must be a way to reach them. So, we offered to loan materials to classroom teachers. Anybody that they have a need for, they can give me a call. Then it began to grow into ‘what other large whole school activities can we provide’ that every child would be able to utilize, that every child would be touched in some way by the services we provide. Things like the science fair, anyone can participate, anyone who wants to try out for the math team, anyone who wants to try out for the spelling bee, the walking fieldtrips for grades K through five. All of those kinds of events are for everyone. Everyone can take advantage of them.

The Student News Site of Marshfield High School
MHS Heroes: Letting Students Teach