A smile and wave

The simple and effective philosophy of Erica Hershberger


A cheerful smile and a wave. Such a simple gesture, but an important one. A gesture English teacher and intervention specialist Erica Hershberger learned the importance of.

Hershberger never fails to give every student she sees a kind smile. Her positive attitude shines brightly from her little corner of lower B, illuminating the entire school 

¨Mrs. Hershberger is one of the kindest teachers in the school, she always has a smile on her face and is always ready to welcome you when walking down the hall,” Sophomore Kallie Ludwig said. ¨Her room always feels like a safe place just from her positive attitude.¨

Hershberger realized the importance of a simple smile when she was visiting a high school while pursuing her education degree. Originally Hershberger aspired to become a gym teacher, but this one interaction changed her life.

¨As I walked down the hallway a bunch of students smiled and waved to me. I went into the classroom I was helping out at and the teacher asked me to take a student with down syndrome to the bathroom,¨ Hershberger said. ¨As I walked her there and back no one said hi. The same students who were so kind before didn’t even look at us.¨ 

The seed was planted in Hershberger´s mind on that day. She always wanted to help students with special needs. She saw the need for intervention specialists throughout the state, teaching at Sandy Valley Elementary School until 2012. Her daughter started kindergarten at Plain Local and the high school needed an intervention specialist. So she jumped right in.

¨When I was offered the job I sat down with Mr. May and he asked me if I would be okay with transitioning from teaching elementary to high school, but simply the job isn’t much different. It´s meeting the students where they´re at and being able to fulfill their needs,” Hershberger said.

Hershberger meets her students´ needs in ways many do not think about. In her class not only does she teach English, but also a life skills class. She talks to her students helping them with what they need, from someone blocking them on Snapchat to filling out a resume. 

Part of her job is writing IEPs which are, in simple terms, plans for students’ academic and transition goals, which she writes for all 35 students. 

When you visit Hershberger’s room it is hard to ignore the mass amounts of Harry Potter decorations. Like everything Hershberger does, she does it for her students. 

¨My room is Harry Potter-themed since my seniors are really into Harry Potter. It is always decorated with something my students are interested in, I want to make sure they aren´t overstimulated,¨ Hershberger said. ¨I ask them to step out of their comfort zone a lot, I want them to feel safe while challenging themselves.¨

Many students at the school do not know what her classes do. To help everyone connect Hershberger created an Instagram account, @classyhershb109. Hershberger understands the importance of connecting with people.

¨I had a very typical student, but he struggled with English. He came to my class so upset one day. When I asked him what was wrong he said no one would make eye contact with him. He said the teachers don’t even say hi. I realized he was right,¨ Hershberger said. ¨There are students here that don’t feel seen. I make it my mission to make sure every student feels seen.¨

Too many students do not feel seen. From the student she walked to the bathroom to who no one said hi to, to the student who felt alone, Hershberger has built her teaching career around caring for every student. 

A simple gesture, a smile, and a wave. But just that simple gesture tells someone they are seen. Of all the great lessons taught in B109, one of the most important ones is one Hershberger practices well, showing others they are seen, heard, and loved.

A smile and wave.