By Kathy Quirk
Dianna Herron knew making the career change would be a challenge, but following her passion meant that challenge was worth it.
Herron, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is pursuing her degree in the School of Education. Her commitment to becoming a teacher grew out of her love of the Spanish language.
She was enrolled at MATC a couple of years ago, but like many students, still wasn’t quite sure where she wanted her educational path to lead. She knew she enjoyed Spanish, however, so she made sure it was among her coursework.
To help with mastering the language, an instructor suggested that students should find opportunities to practice Spanish outside of class. So, Herron ended up tutoring students at Hayes Bilingual School on Milwaukee’s near-south side.
“I worked with students in first and second grade that needed to work on their English composition and reading comprehension, and I loved it,” Herron says. “I felt like I was in my element.”
A colleague at Hayes asked what she was studying in college, and when Herron said she was still undecided, the colleague told her: “This is where you should be. The students really respond to you.”
That helped set Herron’s mind toward pursuing a four-year education degree, even though she realized that juggling school and work would be a challenge. She held an associate degree in medical assisting, and she’d been working for eight years as a behavior analyst for children with autism.
But as Herron moved into the education program at MATC, she worked with the program’s coordinator. He helped her make a smooth transition to UWM’s School of Education.
UWM and MATC, along with Milwaukee Public Schools, are part of a partnership called M3 (pronounced M-cubed). M3 leverages the power of Milwaukee’s three largest public education institutions to streamline the path for students to go from the classroom to the workforce.
Although Herron graduated from Reagan High School before the formation of M3 in 2015, she’s on track to hold degrees from each M3 member institution. MATC awarded Herron an associate degree in teacher education in May of 2017, and she soon enrolled at UWM. There, faculty members and staff have supported her work toward a four-year degree.
She’s found certain resources at UWM particularly helpful, such as the Educational Opportunity Center, which assists first-generation college students. “One of the people over there just made me feel like I was at home,” Herron says. “And the library staff is always nice and helpful, whether you phone or stop by.”
UWM also helped Herron find a work-study tutoring job that fit well with her schedule. “I was doing both the autism job and work-study at the same time,” she says, “and that ended up being too much.”
Herron hopes to graduate in 2020, and because she particularly likes working with middle-school and high-school students, that’s where she plans to focus her student-teaching and eventual career.
She also wants to continue her interest in Spanish. She still volunteers as a tutor, working with native Spanish speakers to help with their schoolwork in English.
“I’d love to be able to use my Spanish in some way,” Herron says, “even if I’m not teaching in that area.”