By Ashley Davis, Marketing Services
From student to teacher to programming administrator, and now back to student, Susana Inés Torres Herrera's experiences in the education world have come full circle. It’s no surprise that Susy (as she's known in the office) works in education as she’s been surrounded by it her whole life—her father worked as an educator, her eldest brother is a university professor, and her husband has a degree in the field.
Susy started her journey by studying in a bilingual secretarial program in Barranquilla, Colombia. She was such a good student that they hired her and, over the next 15 years, Susy's interest in education flourished while teaching English to children.
"Seeing [the children] improve their knowledge and abilities in a second language was very rewarding. I enjoyed being creative in my classes and motivating them to participate, practice English, care for one another and work as a group. [I learned that] a fun and safe environment helps children to feel happy and comfortable, and happy children learn faster.”
Little did Susy know that years later she would continue to use those same skills, this time to help adult learners accomplish their academic goals as the program assistant for Health, Safety and Public Relations within Continuing Studies at UVic. "I am fortunate to meet all kinds of people in my job, from different parts of the world with different backgrounds. It is always comforting to be a part of their process, from the day they ask their first question to their convocation day," she says. "I am so thankful to be a part of Continuing Studies, where everyone is so welcoming and willing to assist students with all that they need."
When Susy began to work for Continuing Studies, she realized the benefits that its Public Relations program could bring her on a professional level, so she decided to apply to the program. "I can practice [learnings from the program] in both my professional and personal life. With all the changes in this world, we need to improve our communication skills using honesty and credibility. The [program] material is fascinating, and the instructors are well prepared and helpful," she explains.
As you might imagine, someone who’s as fond of teaching as Susy is knows the importance of focusing on the other end of the spectrum as well—learning. To stay balanced, she enjoys dabbling in the performing arts and studying human behaviour. "I love salsa dancing and singing (although I am aware that I sound like a 'bag full of cats'!)—it makes me happy and is a stress reliever. I have also taken some Continuing Studies courses, like French Language Conversation and Sing Level 1 (just to see if my voice starts sounding any better!)."
It’s easy to see where Susy gets her drive and motivation. When asked if she has any role models, she quickly answers, "I have several, most of them women! My mother, Maria Herrera, is one of them.”
Susy in costume with her dance partner and husband, 2008.
At the young age of 16, Susy’s mother already had three children and was living in a part of the world where it was difficult for women to progress in life. "Even so," she adds, "[my mother] did everything she could to finish high school and university to become an accountant, and to give my siblings and I a better life with better opportunities."
Other mentors in Susy's life include Professor Margarita Marin, who she learned strength and determination from; Mrs. Martha Iglesias, who educated her on the power of forgiveness; and Mrs. Edilsa Tobon, who taught her about compassion and sharing. "Of course, my biggest hero," Susy points out, "is my father, Alberto Torres, a retired psychologist who never stops studying and learning new things. He helped me believe in myself, to grow spiritually and to trust my instincts."
It's no doubt these attributes learned from her mentors have proved valuable throughout Susy's life. It takes a well-rounded individual to help shape the minds of our future decision-makers—someone who understands the importance of being a lifelong learner, and that it's not just what the teacher passes onto the student that matters, but also what the student provides the teacher in return. It’s a full circle education.