By Noelle H. Lowery
Tommie Barfield Elementary welcomed two new second grade teachers to its hallowed halls this fall — Trisha Herzog and Awilda Torres. Although the two women traveled very different roads to TBE, they are both in their 14th year of teaching, and their passion for teaching is evident as their No. 1 priority is their students.
A native of New Jersey, Herzog attended from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey with a degree in Psychology and an elementary certification for grades K-6. She and her husband, Tom, in live Naples, and their son, Aidan, is a first-grader at TBE.
Torres was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, and her family moved to Southwest Florida when she was eight years old. They lived in Immokalee, and she graduated from Immokalee High School. She attended Edison Community College and then Nova Southeastern University where she received a bachelors in elementary education. After several years of teaching, she enrolled at Walden University and received her masters degree in reading and literacy.
“Coastal Breeze News” sat down with these two veteran teachers to find out more about them and what led them to teaching.
Q: Tell me about your favorite teacher as a child?
Herzog: My favorite teacher was Mr. Carpani. When I was in fifth grade, I had a tough time learning social studies, and he helped me a great deal and showed that he really cared for me as an individual, as well as, my academics.
Torres: My favorite teacher as a child was my sixth grade science teacher Sally Fields. Ms. Fields had enthusiasm for her subject matter. She had a positive learning environment. She made learning science fun, and we always had hands on activities to do.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
Herzog: I have always loved children. As a little child, I would always play school and be the teacher, of course! My sister also inspired me to be a teacher. She has been teaching for many years, and I loved how awesome she is as an educator.
Torres: Since I was a young girl growing up, I wanted to become a teacher. I always admired my teachers, and I wanted to be like them. I have always worked with children. During my high school years, I used to work after school helping students with their homework, and on the weekends, I was a catechist at my church. I learned that if I make the difference in the life of one little boy or girl I have made an impact on the world.
Q: What three words best describe your teaching style, and why?
Herzog: Energetic because these little ones need a bubbly personality. Loving because they are with me so many hours throughout the day away from their parents. Hands on because they need manipulatives and tools to help them learn.
Torres: Optimistic, I think that students are capable of anything they put their mind to…I think that when students set high expectations for themselves, they are more likely to be internally motivated. Understanding, I like to show my kids that I understand not every day is easy and that there may be circumstances that make learning difficult for them on a given day. Nurturing, I believe every student is unique and has their own learning style, so it is necessary to teach in a concise way that each person can understand. In my classroom I create an environment that inspires cooperation, rather than competition. I encourage my students to work together and to be self-motivated. I provide opportunities for the students to think, ask questions, and explore the relevance that the information has in real life, and the impact it may have on their own lives.
Q: How did you come to TBE?
Herzog: I taught at Estates Elementary for two years but the school was so far away from my home. Therefore, my goal was to get in to TBE because it is an excellent school for my son to attend, the school has a great rapport with the community, and the commute is way better!
wouldn’t want to drive over a bridge, onto a gorgeous island, and into paradise to teach school? When the district offered me the opportunity to work at TBE, I took the chance. Tommie Barfield Elementary is a legendary school in Collier County, and I am excited to work at such a great school.
Q: What was the first thing you noticed about TBE that told you this elementary school may be different from others?
Herzog: I like the fact that since our school is on the island, everyone knows one another and it seems like one big family!
Torres: Several things have made me realize that Tommie Barfield is a class act! My principal, Dr. Jory Westberry, who welcomed me graciously and is full of useful information and insights about the school. The teachers on my team who are helpful about curriculum and continue to help me become a collaborative member of the second grade team. Other staff members who always have a smile and a kind word or two when I pass them in the hallway. And then there are the students — the highlight of my day! No matter what I am thinking and feeling, it all flies out the window when my students enter the room. When I leave TBE every day, I leave with a smile on my face! I am blessed to work here!
Q: What are your goals for your first year at TBE?
Herzog: My goal is to learn all the expectations here as a teacher, as well as, for my students. I want to grasp what is expected and do my best!
Torres: My goals are very simple. I want to be the very best second grade teacher possible, and have happy, successful second grade students ready to become third grade students at the end of the year. With all of the help and support readily available at TBE, I know I can realize my goal!
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
Herzog: George W. Bush, along with Ronald Reagan, because I would love to discuss some of the things they dealt with as president. I loved them as president. The Wright Brothers so I can tell them how thankful I am for inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane because without that discovery I would not be able to visit my family back in New Jersey as much as I do. The last person I would like to have dinner with would be George Washington to hear how he would compare/contrast his presidency with the other presidents since he was our first one.
Torres: Mother Teresa, for her humility and unconditional love. The Dalai Lama, he’s such a jovial, down to earth man with a great perspective on life and death. Abraham Lincoln, failure — time and again — at everything he tried, through poverty, defeat, and severe depression, and yet he persisted and became one of history’s greatest figures. Ellen Degeneres, because she comes across as completely authentic and also funny, and we all need more humor in our lives. Hilary Clinton, I would love to see her in action first hand. I’m amazed by her strength, even if I don’t always agree with her policies.
Q: Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
Herzog: I believe everyone chooses whether or not they want to be a good person. Not everyone is a good person because they choose to do evil.
Torres: I think that Anne Frank was writing something that she hoped was true, and by writing it down, it helped to reinforce this belief in her mind. She was afraid and hoping for the best. She was trying to believe there was a basic goodness in people. I think there are a lot of good people, but I also realize that you cannot automatically assume that everyone is ‘good.’ Experiences and circumstances can have adverse effects on people and make them have bad thoughts or do bad things.