Celebrating Debby Herschel's 30+ Years of Teaching Math at Town

Debby Herschel started at Town in 1982, and it is no exaggeration to say that she has impacted more Town students and their math experience than anyone before. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will surpass her in the future. Over the years, Debby has been advisor to hundreds of students and inspired countless colleagues. She truly loves math, the learning of it, the teaching of it, and inspiring others through her passion. Debby has been a critical part of Math Olympiad, promoting participation by anyone and everyone. Most of all, she always has an encouraging word for students, parents, faculty, and staff.

Tributes from the Town Community

Use the form at the end of this page to share your favorite memory of Debby!

In her many years at Town, Debby instilled her incredible love of math to many students. For students that had facility in math, she found new ways to challenge them. For those who could not understand how to do a problem or an equation, she found a different way to teach, a new approach, which made that student “get it!” Debby was accessible to her advisees and students for math, as well as just to chat.

Debby was always on the move from Lower School to Upper School, from Mathletes to Sewing Club — always cheery, with a “How are you, Darling” to start your day. Her interests were many and she was always eager to talk about a recent art exhibit that she had seen or a great play on Broadway that we ‘had to see!’ Debby, you will be missed!

—Claudie Tanenbaum, Latin Teacher and After School Programs Director

More than 30 years ago, Debby Herschel started to change my life and the lives of scores of Town students with her infinite wisdom and wealth of experience. She was always eager to suggest better ways to teach lessons and together, we formed a wonderful working relationship. Debby was always on the lookout for the latest trends and advances in math education and generations of Townies benefitted. It was a tremendous joy to work with Debby on such endeavors as the 6th grade Central Park Re-Design Project, the 7th Grade Water Bottle Project and the Olympiad Math Competition. I congratulate Debby as she attains membership in the “Retired Math Teachers Club”. She will now be able to devote even more time to her passionate interests - pottery, gardening and Broadway shows.

~Tom Golden, Upper School Math Teacher (retired)

There is no one person who has taught me more about children, education, and life than Debby Herschel, my colleague for nearly 20 years and the woman I am fortunate to call my friend. In addition to teaching me all I know about math and math education, Debby has encouraged me to take risks and think outside the box in all that I do. For two decades I watched Debby bring her math classes alive as she brought an indescribable love and passion for mathematics to every class she taught—classes where rich discussions, creative thinking and mistakes were celebrated. Debby leaves Town having given me the greatest gift of all—the ability to ignite a spark and joy for mathematics in future generations of students. All the best to you, Debby, as you begin your next chapter and most importantly, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

~Karen Mulqeeen, 3rd Grade Teacher

You taught me to LOVE math. It went from my worst subject to my best subject. You believed in me and because of that I believed in myself. Our homeroom misses the fun conversations we had with you every morning. Thank you for being an amazing teacher that I will always remember.

~Samantha Sheekey ‘16

I began at Town as an Associate teacher, thus it was not until late Spring in my first year that I was entrusted to teach a math unit. Based on my own traumatizing experiences as a math student, I was slightly terrified that I had been tasked with teaching the entire Fractions unit, but thankfully I had Debby there coaching me through it. She modeled for me how to teach math in an engaging way, stressing the conceptual understanding over memorizing facts and algorithms. Through her teaching, I saw the power of using real life problem solving contexts, and the way that using manipulatives and visual models brought math to life for learners. She taught me that that my role as the teacher was not to give answers, but to ask questions that would encourage students to think, reason, and discuss their ideas, thus helping them to develop mathematical ways of thinking. Finally, she encouraged me to further develop my own understanding of the maths I was teaching. Her passion and guidance helped me to develop a love of math, and a desire to inspire this love of math in others, which has lead me to pursue an Elementary Math Specialist degree from Hunter starting this fall. Thank you Debby!

~Ava Collins, 4th Grade Co-Head Teacher

Debby always prized a child’s inner core; gratitude, politeness and humility – these were not random attributes for Debby, but instead the truest measures of character. Always demanding that we see students in a larger context than only their most recent quiz score, essay grade or adolescent behavioral moment, she would affectionately yet wisely refer to middle school students as “works in progress,” constantly reminding us – and students and parents as well – that teaching is less akin to manufacturing widgets than to molding clay. And Debby was in so many ways a master potter, insisting that we give the clay as much time as needed to continue molding itself.

She also exuded a palpable, infectious enthusiasm for so many aspects of Town life. Whether it be the Math Olympiad, a new Broadway show to discuss, or the weather awaiting us on the Ocean City class trip, Debby could be counted on to express her zeal with gusto and joy. A generation of Town’s eighth-grade students knew that their culminating musical had not been fully vetted until hearing Debby’s unmistakable laughs and cheers emanating from the back row on the WWB auditorium. Those cheers will long echo here at Town as a tribute to Debby’s remarkable presence and career.

~Bill McCartney, 7th Grade History and 8th Grade English Teacher and Director of Placement

I first met Debby during my interview at Town. She quickly set me at ease and I knew I wanted to teach here. Her description of the curriculum and community was transparent and true. I was impressed by her deep knowledge of math curriculum and by her positive interactions with students and faculty. Over the past 5 years, Debby has helped me strengthen my teaching in so many ways. From co-teaching to lesson planning, her questions, comments, and humor have enabled me to not just teach “the math” but also to create a classroom where taking risks, laughing, and learning can coincide. She has also proved to be a great life-long friend and mentor. I know that I can always count on her pottery bowls, restaurant recommendations, and parent advice. She will be missed at Town, but her influence will leave a lasting mark in our community!

~Brenda Cruz, Upper School Math Teacher

Debby was one of the first people I met when I started at Town. We shared an office my first year. Her knowledge of mathematics, her willingness to help the students, and her bright energy always stood out to me - she is a dedicated educator, colleague, and friend!

~Janine Stellacci, Upper School Learning Specialist

I have continued to talk about Debby’s heart. She desires to help any student or Town community member. Town blood runs in her veins. She will fill in for any teacher for any task. She is also a true lover of all things math. She wants Town to have the best math program in the City, and she wants all students to feel they are successful, strong math students and for every student to see that the world is filled with math in wonderful, exciting, unbelievable ways.

~Tamara Schurdak, Head of Upper School

Debbie's passion for mathematics was evident in every class she taught. Her classes were filled with wonderful energy and spontaneity. Debbie's passion for the arts and theater helped enrich countless conversations in our hallways and at the lunch table. But perhaps what I remember most when I think of her was how she would tear up after a performance of the eighth grade musical or discussion about particular student when she evidenced their personal growth. At such moments she would often say, "We just have to always remember that they are works in progress."

~Ken Higgins, Dean of Upper School Students, Upper School Music Teacher and Sustainability Coordinator

She was always funny and passionate- she cared about actual real world understanding of math not just getting a good grade. Once she asked our class to guess her hobby and everyone was surprised to learn that she loved working with clay and especially to make clay figurines!

~Davey Morse, Class of 2014

She always made a real effort to connect with students whether it was about math, Hamilton or Red Farm restaurant.

~Maddy Morse, Class of 2016
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