5/17/18: What I’ve learned from Diana Herrington

One year ago today, we lost the great Diana Herrington. It was at about 1:05 PM when I grabbed rulers from her classroom and said my last words to her, “See you later!” as I headed to the classroom next door, ready to give my final. I got a call at around 3:10 PM when I heard from our department chair that she passed. I was in shock because I just saw her 2 hours ago and she seemed fine. I had to go back to campus because I just could not believe it. She is gone too soon, but I would like to share what I’ve learned from her so her teachings live on.

Some background: I first had her in the credential program where all the single subject math credential student would meet weekly with her just to talk about how things are going in our classes. It wasn’t until Fall 2015 that we got really close. The Department Chair Rajee wanted me to teach Math 10A and 10B (math for liberal studies majors) but since I was still a master’s student, I couldn’t teach non-remedial courses so he paired me up with Diana Herrington. We co-taught for one year then after I graduated, we taught our separate classes but still stayed in the same office to collaborate.

We would spend hours over the summer hanging by the Fresno State Starbucks creating lesson plans by backwards mapping. I would always be in awe of her creativity and how to teach. It was honestly a struggle for me creating her style of lessons (it would take me days to create just one) but looking back, I wouldn’t have taught any other way. People may think that spending hours creating lessons isn’t ideal, but I remember the feeling that I would absolutely love creating lessons with Diana even on my birthday. Like, that’s literally what I would like to choose to do on my birthday.

She gave me a book to read (Mathematical Mindsets just came out) but I put it to the side just because I was busy with the master’s program and teaching and I didn’t read it until a couple months later and I told her “Diana! This entire book is basically how we’re teaching right now!” She said “Yeah! That’s why I told you to read it!”

I’m finding it hard to put into words what she taught me because her teachings are integral to who I am as a teacher and I can’t imagine the teacher I would be if I didn’t cross paths with her.

What I learned from Diana:

She taught me to have students buy back points. Say a student got a 60 on Test 1, they missed 40 points so they can “buy back” half (20) of them by not erasing their mistakes, but rather have them write “I got this incorrect because…” and “I now know…” and then doing the problem correctly.

She taught me to give students the first 5-7 minutes of the testing period to hand them the tests and have them talk with their groups about the tests with no pencils. That way it reduces their test anxiety.

She taught me to use Digital Portfolios. I absolutely love these because I’ve had past students ask me for letters of recommendation so I just go back to their Digital Portfolio for concrete work.

She taught me to have weekly reflections. She was huge on reflection and I think that that cannot be emphasized enough in schools.

She taught me to find math in the real world. A mathematician will have a different view of the world as say, an artist. One great example that she told our students was the table in front of our classroom. She gave them the exercise, “How would a ______________ view this table?” A 4-year old might see this as a great hiding spot for an Easter egg. An engineer might be looking at how the table is stable. A dancer might see this table as a good prop for their dance. A mathematician might try to find perpendicular angles or talk about the most appropriate units for surface area.

She taught me that we need to value everyone’s opinion. With her decades of experience, she could have easily shot down my ideas since I only had about a year of teaching under my belt, but that wasn’t Diana. We worked really well together, really making the class OUR class and I loved that about her.

She taught me how to effectively use technology in the classroom. She would always carry her iPad and use airplay so she can walk around the room and even have students write on her iPad so it would show on the projector. She also definitely made me feel more comfortable with Google Slides. Alice Keeler definitely changed my mind about the use of technology in the classroom; Diana made it go further.

She taught me that stories go a long way. Anyone who was her student knows that she is very story-driven. I could listen to the same stories over and over. She told her students to bring in stories. Even bad stories are good in lessons. If we want to make lessons memorable, bring in stories. For example, she would always talk about her bike trips when talking about slope/grade.

She taught me that teachers are selfless. She bought SO. MUCH. stuff that we use in the classroom thanks to Trash for Teachers or RAFT (a teacher store in San Jose). She would just keep buying things for our classrooms. Her job here at State actually paid less than her retirement she is getting from Clovis Unified, but she still put her whole heart into what she does because that is the person that she is.

Continuing on that selflessness, she decided to create an award for the regional science fair competition  called the M-power award, an award given to 2 students who used mathematical modeling in their project. She wanted to do this because she noticed that people who do well nationally had great mathematical modeling so she wanted to encourage it locally. The award is still going thanks to the funds from her and Alice Keeler’s book “Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities.”

Diana greatly impacted who I am as a teacher and I’m just one person. I can only imagine the impact that she has made on everyone that she has encountered. She is definitely missed.