Kelly Herring with her students

10 years and counting ... and reading and writing

USC elementary education undergrad program celebrates 10th anniversary

Second-grade teacher Kelly Herring, '07 education, is about to finish her 10th year in the classroom. During that decade, she hasn’t strayed far from her beloved alma mater — teaching first in Northeast Columbia and now Lexington, South Carolina.

“I grew up knowing I would become a teacher,” says Herring. “My mom was a teacher and an excellent role model for educators. I used to play school in her classroom every day and observe the wonders and challenges of impacting the lives of children. I knew that I wanted to inspire kids.”

Herring was among the first class of students to graduate from the College of Education’s elementary education program in 2007. The program, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, allowed students who wanted to become elementary educators to graduate in four years. Before 2007, only a joint bachelor-master’s degree program was available and that required five or more years.

“I was given the opportunity to receive my degree and become a teacher within a four-year time frame, while attending the school that had always been my first choice,” says Herring.

Since 2007, nearly 740 students have completed the elementary education undergraduate program and another 83 graduated this May.

“It’s safe to say that many of those alumni are teaching right here in South Carolina and making a difference in the lives of thousands of school children each day,” says Thomas Hodges, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Education.

Herring stays in touch with many of her fellow 2007 graduates.

“I still see several of my classmates at district meetings. One of them even taught with me my first year and that was a really neat experience,” says Herring. 

I was given the opportunity to receive my degree and become a teacher within a four-year time frame, while attending the school that had always been my first choice.

Kelly Herring, '07, elementary education

From as early as freshman year, education students have the opportunity to spend time in K-12 classrooms — an experience that not only enhances their teaching skills, but also gives them a competitive edge after graduation. 

“USC prepared me by allowing me to have so many varied experiences in the classroom,” stresses Herring. “I remember having a practicum freshman year and wondering why we were starting so early, but now I realize that this is what made me so prepared for my own classroom. I was able to visit many different schools, to meet talented teachers and to interact with differing students.”

And though Herring says much has changed in the profession over the last decade — mainly the use of technology and the focus on testing — the most gratifying part of being a teacher remains the same.

“I think the most rewarding part of my job has to be the relationships I build with my students and their families. This is by far the most important thing you can do as a teacher. Without it, learning is not possible in the classroom. Building these relationships where kids trust you sets the stage for all the learning that will take place during the year,” Herring says. 

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