Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Erney

Jeremy Levick, Staff Writer

For those of you who don’t know her, Ms. Erney is a Chemistry teacher, most recently returned from her year-long sabbatical at Cornell. The Harriton Banner recently had a chance to sit down and chat with Ms. Erney.

THB: First, welocme back. Let’s start with what made you want to become a teacher?
HE: My father was a Technology Education teacher. I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was 6 years old. I never wanted to be anything else. And it was partially because I wanted to use the colored chalk, which was reserved for teachers and I wasn’t allowed to use it. I figured I would become a teacher so I could use the colored chalk. The first thing I did when I became a teacher was I bought myself was colored chalk. And now of course…dry erase boards. And the stupid markers run out of ink all the time.

THB: Who do you look up to?
HE: Basically everyone…My father is a huge inspiration to me. He’s smart, funny, creative…all the things I want to be. And it’s so cheesy, but I’m totally inspired by my students. I think that kids are so resilient and sometimes adults need to remember that and regain that resilience.

THB: How did you get into chemistry?
HE: I liked all school subjects except history, really. And when I was going to college I thought about how I could best spend the money my parents had saved for me? I figured chemistry would be enjoyable, yet challenging. I feel as if it was a great decision.

THB: What were you doing before you came to Harriton?
HE: I taught chemistry for two years in the Lehigh Valley. Actually, just this past year, when I was in grad school again, I took an engineering course, and I really liked it. I wonder what would have happened had I done that earlier.

THB: How was your sabbatical last year?
HE: Last year I took a sabbatical. If you teach for ten years in Pennsylvania, you’re granted a sabbatical. I applied to a program that had a Masters in professional studies. You’re able to finish in a year or a year and a half. I went to Cornell, which is huge in food science. I had a blast and learned so much and tied it in to what I can teach here.

THB: So what were your classes like?
HE: I was in undergraduate as well as graduate classes. I was immersed in student culture. I have a new, different empathy for students. You go through cycles. You’re a student: you think you know everything. You’re a teacher: you realize you don’t know everything.

THB: Tell me about what you do outside class?
HE: I like yoga, reading. I’m a vegan, as of a year or a year and a half ago for health reasons. I have MS. I am comfortable talking about it. I want people to be exposed to this kind of information. It’s always nice having someone say “Yeah, I have MS.” Some kids don’t know what it is or don’t know what to say, and I think if I’m your teacher, you should feel comfortable talking to me, and hopefully by the end of the school year, we should be able to have that kind of conversation.

THB: How are you doing?
HE: I’m doing OK. Things that cheer me up are coming to work. Having distractions. I don’t think about it during the day.

THB: Did I hear that you make yogurt or did I make that up?
HE: Oh, I totally made my own yogurt, but I don’t eat it anymore because I’m a vegan. Vegans don’t eat any kind of animal products at all, so I don’t eat dairy. It’s kind of difficult to find easy meals on a constant basis, but it’s such a cool challenge to come up with dishes that taste good, although my co-workers in the lunchroom usually make fun of me for my meals. It was also cool being in a food science program, learning about the different components of the process. They’re trying to make tofu look more like beef.

THB: Favorites? Movies? Books?
HE: I don’t like movies. My favorite book is John Irving’s A Widow For One Year. He is brilliant. I’m usually reading two or three books at a time. My favorite holiday is Groundhogs Day, which is always exciting.

THB: Favorite animal?
HE: Llamas, which are similar to alpacas although they differ in size. I used to have an imaginary pet llama growing up, named Tony. My parents called me five years ago and were so excited to tell me my aunt and uncle were buying alpacas, and I was upset. My parents didn’t understand why I was so upset and I told them, “They stole my dream!” I am, though, going to have a goat and a donkey at some point. And I just got a puppy from the Weigls.

THB: Thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us.
HE: You’re very welcome.