Adult Education teacher Diane Herzik receives ‘Exceptional Service Award’ for 2011
Harris County Department of Education GED teacher Diane Herzik grew into her profession the day that she walked into her adult education classroom in Katy, Texas five years ago. As she glanced at her untraditional students’ faces, she realized her job would be more than just math problems and English essays.
Her high energy, enthusiasm and dedication to her students and profession paid off on Sept. 20 as she received the “Exceptional Service Award,” a yearly honor bestowed to one employee out of 1,000 at Harris County Department of Education. In addition to accolades, the award includes a plaque and a $500 check.
Herzik came to work for HCDE Adult Education in 2007 at Mayde Creek High School and Bear Creek United Methodist Church, adult education community sites in Katy, Texas. Her past teaching career includes over 25 years as secondary teacher at Katy, Schulenburg and Edgewood independent school districts, as well as several private school posts.
“Her passion for teaching really took hold when she began to teach adult students,” said Harris County Department of Education manager Martin Loa. Loa worked with Herzik at the HCDE Adult Education site at Bear Creek United Methodist for several years.
“The e-mails and calls Ms. Herzik gets from her GED students fuel her desire to teach adults,” Loa said.
In one e-mail, a GED student formerly enrolled in special education wrote to say he gained self-confidence after he got his GED. Getting his current job making $28 an hour was incumbent on earning a GED. Despite his learning disability, the student continued to study with Herzik until he mastered the content. He wrote to thank his teacher for believing in him. A female student who works at Wal-Mart cycled through Herzik’s GED class three times before passing the GED. Today she attends a nursing program at Houston Community College. A wife wrote that she was trapped in a physically emotionally abusive marriage before gaining her GED, a move she called “her ticket out.”
To further assist her adult students, Herzik participated in training this year to assist her adult students with special needs. She is now a special learning needs resource specialist, said her current manager Kay Vaccaro.
“Every student learns different so we have to be open to various teaching strategies,” Herzik said.
Last year Herzik helped 47 adult students in Katy gain their GEDs. One of those was Jonathan Kuciemba, an 18-year-old homeless student who left a life on the streets to come into Herzik’s classroom.
“By obtaining my GED, I have opened doors for employment,” Kuciemba said.
Kuciemba publicly thanked Herzik for believing in him and helping him gain his GED at a graduation ceremony in May 2011 where he was congratulated for receiving high scores on the test. He now works for Cameron Steel Company while attending community college.
In addition to following up on her students’ successes after they leave her classroom, Herzik models a love for her community. She acts as a mentor for newbie GED teachers at the HCDE community site at Mayde Creek High School. She also volunteers at Bear Creek United Methodist Fall Festival each year, and her students are at work beside her.
“She is a no-nonsense type of lady, but she works with her heart,” Loa said.
Loa recalls trying to hire Herzik as program assistant several years ago. She didn’t think twice about the request, graciously declining the offer of a promotion.
“She refused and said that her passion was with the students in her classroom,” he said.
Students like Felistus Morisho, who is now a student at Lone Star College, say that Herzik gives more of herself than just knowledge.
“I will always thank her for the courage she gave me,” Morisho said. “I am very, very happy because I never thought it possible that I would be going to college to achieve my dreams.”
As a mentor and tutor, Herzik has received the Katy ISD Outstanding Service Award. She is an active member of the National Education Association and the Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education.
“Her passion for teaching can be seen through the testimonials of her students,” said Eduardo Honold, director of HCDE Adult Education. “As a teacher, she models good citizenry and creates goodwill throughout the Katy community in which she serves and represents for Harris County Department of Education.
Photo: Harris County Department of Education GED teacher Diane Herzik is presented with the “Exceptional Service Award 2011,” a top employee honor bestowed to one of 1,000 employees, at the September board of trustees meeting. Herzik gains the award for her dedication to her GED students. Trustee Marvin Morris delivers a check for $500 to Herzik, a Katy resident, as she celebrates with granddaughter Chandler Bromley.
About HCDE Adult Education: Adult Education provides classes in GED, adult basic education, English as a second language and citizenship. Students are served at more than 70 Harris County Department of Education locations. Classes are provided free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Communities served include areas of Houston and North Forest, Cypress-Fairbanks, Katy, Alief, Spring Branch, Klein, Sheldon, Pasadena, Deer Park, La Porte, Goose Creek (Baytown), Crosby, Huffman, Galena Park and Channelview. HCDE Adult Education provides curriculum based on state standards with a 30-year track record. Trained teachers and career counseling services provide for about 10,000 students yearly. Materials include textbooks, computer-aided instruction and distance education.
About HCDE: Harris County Department of Education provides education services to the general public and 26 school districts throughout Harris County and beyond. Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy services, professional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, and Head Start programs. We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, records management, and school finance support. Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public. Visit us at www.hcde-texas.org.