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Teaching may seem like a calling for some entering the profession. But for many educators, that calling turns into a lifelong passion and a labor of love. It was like that for Maureen O’Herin.

O’Herin was a veteran English professor at LPC and was admired by her peers on campus for her work as a professor. She retired from teaching on Jan. 5, 2023

“I taught for about 30 years at the community college level,” O’Herin said. “It’s a long time, but honestly even talking about it feels like it flew by.”

O’Herin started her teaching career in the late 1980’s, a time when the name Las Positas didn’t exist. She began teaching on July 17, 1987 at the college then known as Valley Campus, part of Chabot College.

To put things in perspective, “Jaws: The Revenge” debuted the day before her start date. The Grateful Dead came out with their album “In the Dark” on July 6. Magic Johnson was the NBA MVP that year.

Teaching was not O’Herin’s first idea after graduating from San Francisco State University with a master’s degree in English, concentrating in creative writing. She started working at UC Berkeley in student health services as a copywriter early in her career. 

“I was writing stuff up and editing papers,” O’Herin said. “I was like, ‘Yeah I don’t like this.’ Teaching a class changed the trajectory of my career.”

At Las Positas College, she first taught developmental English.

“I thought it was amazing seeing the way students worked, and it was usually those who didn’t get support in English,” O’Herin said. 

O’Herin enjoyed discussing stories inside the classroom, especially the students’ own stories. 

“Anytime you are teaching, you are talking about someone’s story, and it feels like you are getting a little piece of someone’s soul,” O’Herin said.

While teaching at LPC, O’Herin also taught at Solano Community College in Vallejo, California.

The key to becoming an effective professor at the college level is the ability to develop not only your own persona but also your own unique pedagogy, according to Catherine Eagan, one of O’Herin’s long-time colleagues at LPC.

“Maureen crafted her persona through conversations with other faculty members,” Eagan said in an email correspondence. 

Eagan began teaching at LPC in 2003, and her first encounter with O-Herin was at an orientation for new full-time faculty. They worked together in the department until O’Herin’s retirement.

O’Herin would often provide support for students in the English Center, according to Eagan.

“Maureen developed a lab where students could copy down their sentences with errors and gave students the opportunity to revise those sentences, ” Eagan said.

 O’Herin noticed that many students who visited her for support in English were dedicated to becoming better students.

“I thought it was amazing to see students work and show that determination to get the work done. It was mainly students who did not have support in English,” O’Herin said.

O’Herin taught many students who were learning English for the first time and were taking courses in the English as a Second Language program. This was the case with LPC global studies student Millie Trujillo. Trujillo joined the program in fall 2018. 

Trujillo took O’Herin’s English 1A class in the fall of 2022 for a greater challenge at the college level, since English is not her first language

O’Herin would also instill in her students the drive to consistently confront their weak points and work through obstacles inside the classroom, according to Trujillo.

Trujillo took O’Herin’s class because she was known as a good professor who challenged her students to learn. 

But what the most challenging for O’Herin was teaching within the confines of an online classroom and then adopting a different approach to teaching within different modules.

Teaching online was not one of O’Herin’s favorite memories at LPC, in part because it was challenging for her.

“I think an online class is a new way to connect with students,” O’Herin said. “But it just wasn’t my teaching style.”

She adopted new tools to teach literature online and explored new methods to engage with her students, according to Eagan.

“One great example of O’Herin adopting new tools for online education was her use of the digital annotation app Hypothesis, and that was her own way to teach ‘Jane Eyre’ during the pandemic,” Eagan said. 

What O’Herin enjoyed the most about online education were the puzzles — the mental puzzles that made her think about where everything in distance education should go.

“There is a puzzle quality to distance education and that made me think about how it was going to work,” O’Herin said.

O’Herin’s legacy will continue to leave a lasting impact with LPC administrators such as Dean of Arts and Humanities Amy Mattern. Mattern joined LPC in the fall of 2019 and believes her success during the pandemic was in part because she worked with  O’Herin, who was the English department coordinator at the time.

“Maureen brought extreme competence and intelligence, strong and thoughtful advocacy and the absolute best sense of humor to help her team make it through the pandemic,” Mattern said. 

During her time at LPC, O’Herin not only developed useful tools for students to use but also gave LPC professors tools to improve their teaching. 

“Maureen constantly reminded us why we were doing this work and expressed her optimism with us when we made improvements to our own style of teaching,” Eagan said. 

Eagan believes O’Herin’s impact on the college will last. “Maureen always tried to inspire her students and brought so much to the larger community,” Eagan said.

Mattern agreed that O’Herin’s legacy will endure, noting that she will continue to value her “leadership, partnership and friendship.”

Peter Zimmer is a freelance writer for The Express. Follow him @PeterJZimmer. Zimmer wrote this story in spring 2023 before he was hired to teach English at LPC. He will teach his first class in fall 2023.

Featured photo (top): Retired English faculty Maureen O’Herin reflects on her career at LPC on April 5, 2023./ Photo courtesy of Maureen O’Herin

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