Shari Herout '92 (Liberal Studies)
Miracle workers. That’s how Shari Herout always thought of her teachers. “It started way back when I was in kindergarten,” she says. “All the way through school I’ve had miraculous teachers.”
In November, Herout was recognized for the miracle worker she turned out to be. The kindergarten teacher at Vacaville’s Foxboro Elementary was named one of five 2012 California Teachers of the Year by the Department of Education.
Though Herout always knew she wanted to be a teacher, it wasn’t until she was encouraged by two Sacramento State professors, Edward Arnsdorf and Daniel Orey, that she decided to go on to get her master’s degree. “I never thought that was the direction I would go in my life until I met these amazing teachers,” she says.
Along with the edge she received from her advanced degree, Herout observed in her professors how a dynamic classroom can be better achieved by listening to students. “Teaching can’t be a path that is mapped out, because you don’t know where the interactions of your students will take you,” she says. “That was a huge lesson.”
Herout’s receptiveness applies to more than just lesson plans. In her 17 years of teaching—including teaching special education students and students too ill to attend classes—Herout came to understand the importance of adapting to the needs of the entire classroom as a unit and to each student in it. “What works in one classroom or for one student doesn’t always work in the next. You’ve got to be cheerfully flexible,” she says. “That’s a challenge, but that also keeps it fun.”
Not only does her Teacher of the Year honor prove she’s conquered that challenge, praises sung by Herout’s colleagues at Foxboro Elementary highlight her other qualities.
“Shari makes learning come alive for students,” says Cristina Eva Martinez, who co-taught with Herout. In addition to providing a creative, hands-on classroom, Herout also gains recognition for the comprehensive behavioral, emotional and academic care she shows for her students, says Foxboro Elementary’s Principal Lisa Eckhoff. “She is a highly sought-after teacher,” Eckhoff says. “Even our teachers want their children in her class.”
To students, this Teacher of the Year offers the gift of not only education, but the confidence to succeed in school—a feeling Herout says is similar to what she experienced upon completing her master’s degree at Sac State.
“With my master’s degree, I achieved something I never imagined possible that changed my outlook on life,” she says. “We so often don’t reach our potential because we don’t allow ourselves to see ourselves as great. Getting my master’s instilled in me the drive to be more and to expect that from my students.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2012 edition of Sac State Magazine.