Teaching with the times

  • Contributed

    Val “Miss Val” Hertzog is a second-grade teacher at St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a.

  • Courtesy of Val Hertzog

    St. Catherine School’s second-grade teacher Val “Miss Val” Hertzog and her students beam at Christmas time in 2019.

Known by the majority of her students as “Miss Val,” Val Hertzog has patrolled hallways of education for over 20 years, teaching lower elementary to high school students, beginning her career on Kaua‘i in special education at Kilauea School from 2006 to 2013.

After teaching at Kilauea, she took a sabbatical before landing a new gig at St. Catherine School in 2017, teaching second grade for the last three years.

The teacher emphasizes students learn mindfulness and emotional regulation along with core school subjects.

Like most “Hometown Heroes,” “Miss Val” doesn’t seek recognition.

She is focused on the spiritual growth of the children she has taught throughout the years.

“I always share with our children that there is a light that shines on everyone, and within that light we find our talent and gifts,” Hertzog said. “Sometimes our gifts come out when we are younger, and sometimes we find them as we get older.”

Darian Peralta nominated “Miss Val” as a Hometown Hero for her ability to maintain a sense of organization, and for her unrelenting commitment to educating students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Peralta, “Miss Val” never wavered from her lesson plans despite the chaotic nature of the situation.

Boasting over a 97% attendance rate for her Zoom classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, she ensured her students got the necessary materials from her classes.

“Her patience, kindness and determination to teach our children has been keeping them engaged, motivated and on track,” Peralta said. “Miss Val went above and beyond for her students, and as a parent it warms my heart to know how loved and cared for my child is by her teacher.”

In this interview with The Garden Island, Hertzog discussed what motivates her as an educator and her journey through education.

What drove you to become a teacher?

I went to a Catholic high school in Pittsburgh, and I did a lot of different volunteering during high school. One of the local schools for special-needs children hosted the Special Olympics. I was so amazed at what those children could do. Some of them had to overcome significant challenges, did not have hands and used their feet to throw a ball or pin. At that point, I realized that my calling was working with special-needs children.

Is that the niche of education you chose when you were in college?

I went to La Salle University in Philly, and at the time they offered dual certification for elementary and special education. I remember my father was with me during orientation and asked if I wanted to do this because a lot of teachers burn out early. I decided to go to the dual route and had my special-education certification for years. I eventually tried to get into regular education. However, the administration felt they wanted to keep me teaching special education. I ultimately went to the elementary-ed level of instruction and loved it.

Is it difficult teaching from a distance?

Teaching from a distance was a lot of hard work, and I have to say the kids learned as well as many of the (other) students I’ve had. It was successful. There is a lot of work on my computer, and I have to say the kids learned a lot. In the end, I had to be ready for the parents to make sure they knew what assignments were virtual for our younger grades, especially second graders who need to be in the classroom to get the necessary interaction between student and teacher.

That is what is essential, and I think my students missed that interaction in the last quarter that we did. Part of the learning process is that you need to get feedback so they can go back and fix their mistakes, and that interaction is so important.

I miss not being with my students, and did go above and beyond as a regular-ed teacher or special ed. It’s all about the kids.

You taught children in all different sectors of the school system. What are some things you’ve learned over the years as an educator?

I want to help these children succeed, and know they can come back and talk to me about anything. As I’ve taught them, my door is always open to them. I want to be there for my current and former students in any way I can.

I saw a few kids recently graduate from Kilauea elementary this year from when I was first teaching in Kaua‘i.

I ran into some of them a few months ago. One of my former students told me, “I am sorry I caused you so much mischief, and I learned a lot from you.” It is nice for them to let you know that you had some impact on their lives. If they take one thing from you, whether it’s reading, writing, math or learning how to deal with feeling frustrated, then I know I’ve done something good.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

Teaching is about what is best for the kids, and that is how I’ve always been with any of my students that I have had.”

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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