In the wake of LA County honoring 16 educators as Teachers of the Year, education and literacy has become ever more important for the future success of students in Los Angeles. Though she may have not yet received this honor, there is one LA teacher that aims to take the title one day and make a difference in the lives of her students for years to come.

(Photo Courtesy of Erica Harbison)

(Photo Courtesy of Erica Harbison)

That teacher is Erica Harbison who teaches English and is the English Department Chair at her school. She earned a BA in English at CSUDH while minoring in Communications before obtaining a single-subject teaching credential in English. After being an English teacher for 10 years, she is currently in an accelerated masters program for Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University.

What education or training is needed to do what you do?

“Besides a four-year degree, you need to pass the CBEST exam which demonstrates your proficiency in English, math and writing. Once you’ve done that, then you need to get a teaching credential, which is usually a two-year program for obtaining a preliminary credential. This will help open the door to more teaching opportunities. The final piece of the puzzle is a beginning teacher support and assessment induction program, which is another two years.”

What prompted your decision to pursue an accelerated masters program?

“I have long been thinking about continuing my education, and I always thought I would get a master’s degree in literature or English, but the longer I was a classroom teacher, the more professional responsibilities I took on that limited my personal time availability. Then when I had my daughter, that personal time dropped even more dramatically. Upon reflection, I realized I had been teaching for 10 years and didn’t want to stagnate as a teacher. I surmised that a master’s degree in C&I will make me a better teacher, so I went for it.”

How has your education helped prepare you for your current position and ultimately contributed to your overall success as a teacher?

“The BTSA program alone helped me implement all of my teacher training. It also helped me network with people, which can be key when it comes to finding a teaching job. For me, success as a teacher means that my students learn and emerge from my classroom as better people than they were when they entered. It is not about the test scores. Real learning goes far beyond one test or one score. It is continuous and universally applicable.”

Niki Payne is a freelance writer covering all things Entertainment in Los Angeles. Her work can be found on


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