By Grace Murphy, NHS Member
Imagine a teacher who’s bilingual, an avid traveler, a former flight attendant, and a ballroom dancer. Look no further: Mrs. Herenda is a third year ELL Ancillary Teacher at Fair Lawn High School, with a minor in French and 22 years of speaking the language under her belt. She has also recently become an advisor for the French National Honor Society, and is currently working to organize the high school’s annual French Week.
While supporting and instructing students whose native language is one other than English, she helps students translate directions, create study guides with them, and works to improve their English reading comprehension. But through all this, she focuses on creating a bond with her students that allows them to learn from each other and grow into their best selves.
“That’s one really neat thing about the ELL program, is that they might be in the program for more than one year, so I get to know them… They’re usually in the program for at least two, maybe three years, so then when you see them in the halls and they’ve exited, you feel like, ‘Wow, I really know that student, and they’re independent now’, and that’s really great. That’s probably one of my favorite parts.”
The one-on-one instruction allows her to see the growth of her students in both their academic abilities and their confidence. She watches students struggle with the English language when they enter the program and leave the program two to three years later with the Seal of Biliteracy. Yet throughout the process and evolution of the student’s skills, she learns from them too, and gains new perspectives from each and every student.
“I would say mostly I love learning about other cultures from my students… I love to ask them, like, ‘How would they do this in your school?’ And then they tell me how it’s different, like it’s either more laidback or they don’t change classrooms or they have less deadlines—it’s a different system. I like learning about that from them.”
Though her love for learning about other cultures started before her career in teaching: she was a flight attendant giving announcements for the flights between Newark and Paris. She fell in love with Paris and continued to travel around Europe, seeing England, the Netherlands, and many other European cities through her job. She has since visited Rio de Janeiro and been hiking in the mountains of Peru, and is set on checking Asia, Australia, and Africa off her bucket list.
Another one of her hobbies she recently picked up is ballroom dancing. She can now dance the salsa, bachata, the cha-cha, and more, and has even competed in mini-competitions. While the ballroom dancing, flight attendant career, and world traveling may seem a bit all over the place, it goes along with her advice to high school students before graduating:
“Just try things so that you know what you’re good at. You’re not going to be good at everything, but it’s your chance to explore… you might discover something that you’re really talented at or find kindred spirits that you connect with. So just try a few different things and find out what you love.”