He teaches Advanced Placement calculus and algebra and serves as an instructional coach. Principal Stacy Bryant said Herman is a “forward-thinking” teacher who believes every child can learn. “He believes it is his job to take a student from where they are at in their ability and move them forward. He meets the child wherever they are at,” Bryant said. Bryant recalled her first encounter with Herman four years ago when she visited his freshman algebra class. “He was doing his first day’s speech to the class. It was a bunch of freshmen and they were scared to death,” Bryant said. “He said, `You will not fail this class. I will not let you. I will do everything I can to help.’ PALMDALE – A 23-year veteran in education, Highland High School math instructor Eric Herman never meant to make teaching a career. When he took his first job at a Los Angeles junior high school, where he taught in a wood shop because there was no classroom available, his plan was to make enough money to go to graduate school and study history. “I fell in love with teaching after that first year of teaching and decided that’s what I was going to do,” said Herman, 45, of Quartz Hill. Herman, who last week was named Antelope Valley Union High School District’s 2007 Teacher of the Year, began teaching at Highland 17 years ago when the school opened. “He has turned a lot of people into lovers of math, and the kids love him.” Former student Mario Salguero, who graduated in 2004, said Herman’s “passion to see you learn and understand the subject matter is what sets him apart in my memory, and causes me to regard him as one of the best teachers I had in 12 years of schooling.” Math department chairman for a decade until two years ago, Herman also is credited with getting teachers to give common assessments, which helped determine student performance levels and improve achievement. As a result, students’ pass rates on the math portion of the high school exit exam went from 46 percent the first time they took it to 78 percent the following year. To get students, especially those who struggle, to learn math, Herman said, a teacher has to break the cycle of failure. “The kids who don’t like math generally don’t like it because they haven’t been successful. You have to teach them to believe first they can be successful,” Herman said. With some freshmen performing at just a fourth-grade level in math, Herman said his goal is to start them at a low enough level that they can succeed. “They can take home a paper with an `A’ on it to show Mom and Dad. It makes them want to come back the next day. It takes humor and human contact,” Herman said. The son of a preschool teacher and a mechanical engineer, Herman grew up helping other kids with their math and history homework. The pattern continued in college at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he majored in history. After graduation, he needed a job and was hired at a job fair by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which had a math teacher shortage. “I showed up. They said, `You’re breathing,’ and that’s how I got started,” Herman said. He began at Virgil Junior High in downtown Los Angeles, where his brother also taught. “That’s where I really learned how to teach,” Herman said. His classroom was a wood shop, and lessons were interrupted when someone would come in, turn on the buzz saw and cut a piece of wood. Herman’s wife, Laura, taught calculus at Highland before becoming vice principal at Quartz Hill High School. The couple have two sons, Nathan, 13, and Daniel, 12. [email protected] (661) 267-5744160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!