No matter his life’s future path, however, the 18-year-old East Tennessee State University freshman said he’s thankful his education and his sharply honed affinity for math are helping him move out of self-described poverty.
The Tennessee School Boards Association highlighted Herron’s still-in-progress success story during a news conference Tuesday morning at D-B. The event promoted Tennessee School Board Week, Jan. 25-31, and its theme of “Empowering Excellence.”
Herron graduated with a 4.2 grade point average, putting him 40th in 2008’s class of 384. He was in the Beta Club, AIMS Scholars Program and other activities. He won first place in the Tennessee Honors Program for math and received Civitan Club, Character Counts, track and soccer awards. He is attending college in Johnson City on scholarships.
“I am applying lessons I learned here to what I’m doing today,” Herron told the group. “My teachers were gearing me up for life.”
Herron said he was raised in a “pretty rough neighborhood” and has a disabled father and a mother who has faced lots of adversity.
“It’s not where you start. It’s where you end up,” Herron said.
He recalled coming to Kingsport from Sullivan County in 1999 to attend the city’s Lincoln Elementary, where the “playground was huge” and everyone was friendly and helpful.
His father, a disabled pipe fitter, taught him about “rolling offset,” a math principle he used in his work.
“I’m acting like a nerd, now,” Herron said after a pause to show a drawing of the concept, with garnered laughter from the crowd. “They (teachers) have taught me true confidence, which is knowing that you know what you know.”
And he knows his career path may bring him back to D-B.
“I’m thinking about being a math teacher and maybe coming here and teaching here at D-B,” Herron said after his speech, adding that he’s also considering getting a master’s degree in math and teaching at the college level or becoming a computer science teacher or instructor. His undergraduate major likely will be math with a minor in computer science, he said.
During his speech, he thanked D-B Principal Earl Lovelace and three teachers: Jan Stamper, a math teacher who helped him with scholarships and math awards; Jeremy Epling, a math and computer science teacher who first introduced him to computer science; and math teacher Laura Hopkins.
“You are a true role model,” David Pickler, 2009 TSBA president and a Shelby County school board member, told Herron before presenting him a TSBA certificate. “You are the reason we do what we do.”
The group held similar events in Hamilton County Monday and Knox County Tuesday and plans to have them in Nashville and Memphis Wednesday.
To show the importance of public education, Pickler urged representatives from the other systems in attendance — Sullivan County, Hawkins County and Bristol, Tenn. — to seek out and promote success stories like Herron’s.