Lisa Herald, a 14-year history teacher at Santa Fe Computer Science Magnet School, has been named a regional winner for the California League of Middle Schools Educator of the Year for connecting lessons to student experiences and assigning hands-on projects that highlight student strengths and interests.
The annual award recognizes 22 educators from regions throughout California who exemplify excellence in middle school education reform.
“The special thing about middle school students is they can be silly and have fun, but also be mature enough to handle advanced subjects and tough topics,” Herald said. “I try really hard to make sure my students understand the importance of history, and to be recognized for that work means a lot to me.”
Herald, who has been Santa Fe’s social science department chair for 10 years, believes that students respond to course material when they can relate to what is being taught. Her lesson plans include a variety of mediums, such as writing and drawing, to ensure all students can apply their personal strengths and skills toward learning the material, as well as help them find a deeper meaning in every assignment.
Interactive notebooks, for example, allow students to show their learning through maps, vocabulary, poetry and songs. Every activity throughout the school year goes into the notebooks to form a yearlong portfolio.
“Lisa Herald has very high standards for herself, her colleagues, and her students, and being around her makes you want to raise your own practice and expectations,” Santa Fe Principal Geoffrey Zamarripa said. “Every day, Lisa has an engaging, inspirational lesson for her eighth-graders. It is a complete joy to be in her class and learn with her students.”
Herald also serves as an adviser for Renaissance, a student leadership program that hosts spirit weeks and goal-setting initiatives to recognize peers for achieving grade point averages of 3.0 or higher, perfect attendance, and excellent citizenship.
“I cannot imagine being at any other school because we have a family atmosphere where everyone wants to work together and help to make Santa Fe the best it can be,” Herald said.
Herald’s passion for history comes from listening to her grandparents recount stories from their World War II experiences. She wanted to become a middle school teacher after working with students at an after-school program as a high school recreational leader and a cheering coach.
“Lisa is an example of the quality of teachers we have throughout Monrovia Unified,” Monrovia Unified Board of Education President Terrence Williams said. “Her ability to make history exciting to her students according to their unique strengths shows that every student has the potential to succeed, no matter what the subject is.”
Herald earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and an administrative credential from Point Loma University, along with a bachelor’s degree in history and a teaching credential in social studies from California State Fullerton.
“Congratulations Lisa, for dedicating yourself to Santa Fe and ensuring that our students receive the opportunity to demonstrate their best selves,” Monrovia Unified Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian said. “This honor is so very well deserved.”