This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Dr. Ojoma Edeh Herr, associate professor in special education since 1999.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in Kogi State, Nigeria, and came to the U.S. on September 16, 1987.
Q: What brought you here?
A: I came with a missionary as a caregiver to her daughter with severe intellectual disabilities. The missionary chose me because she was impressed with my work with disadvantaged members of my society.
Q: What was the biggest culture shock with your move from Africa?
A: One of the biggest cultural shocks was having too many choices, especially in food selection. For example, when we arrived we were taken to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and I was so overwhelmed with too many choices that I ended up not eating.
Q: Where were you educated and what did you study?
A: I had a sixth grade formal education in Nigeria. When I came to the U.S., I studied independently and got my GED in Montana, but I barely passed. If I had missed one more question, I would have failed the exam. After that, I came to Pennsylvania where I started my college career at Delaware County Community College AP. I then transferred to West Chester University, where I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 1992. I started my master’s degree program at West Chester, and after a year I gained admission to Teachers College, Columbia University. I obtained both my master of philosophy and doctor of philosophy degrees from Columbia University. My field of study has been special education throughout. My specialties are in cognitive processing, assessment and evaluation, behavior management, curriculum development and my population is multicultural.
Q: What inspired you to write Ojoma’s Song?
A: I had been mentoring many students at Millersville University, and I was inspired by their determination to succeed against all odds. In addition, I saw many parallels between the struggle women face and the struggle people with disabilities face. Therefore, I wrote Ojoma’s Song, in part, as a way to connect with my students and to let them know that I know what they are going through.
Q: What was the biggest obstacle in publishing a book about your own life?
A: Surprisingly, there were none. If anything, it makes many people understand my passion for education and interest in supporting my students, and my community work with women and children.
Q: Have you published any other books?
A: Yes, I published one other book, but it is 100 percent educational. I have received many requests to write a sequel to Ojoma’s Song focusing on my experiences in the U.S., but I have not started that yet.
Q: Do you have family in Nigeria?
A: Yes, most of my family members are still in Nigeria.
Q: How often do you get to travel back to Africa?
A: I used to go twice a year, but since starting a family in the U.S., I only go once a year.
Q: What organizations have you founded in Nigeria and what does that entail?
A: I founded Ministry of Mercy (MOM), a home for children with disabilities and orphans. I just finished building a hospital with three areas of specialty: Women, babies and STD education.
Q: Have you traveled to other countries?
A: Oh yes! I have traveled to many countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Italy and the U.K., to name a few.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
A: I have to say my role as a mom to my two handsome boys.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: My mothers are my role models. I am blessed with two mothers, one in Nigeria and the other in the U.S.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching?
A: My students.
Q: What is your favorite class to teach and why?
A: “Assessment” and “Research Methodology” are my favorite classes. I think it is because my knowledge and comfort level in those classes are the same. I love math, statistics, etc.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a student a Millersville University what would it be?
A: Focus on making a difference in one child’s life. If each of us can make a difference in one child’s life, our world will be a better place because children are more important than rank, position, money, prestige, etc.
Q: How many children do you have?
A: I have three children.
Q: When you aren’t teaching, what is your favorite thing to do?
A: Playing with my boys and gardening.
Q: How did it feel to receive the Human and Civil Rights Educational Leader Award for the Pennsylvania’s Educational Leader of the year?
A: I am blessed to have wonderful students at Millersville, especially to have the honor to be nominated by one of them. All I want to accomplish is to make a difference in one of my students’ lives and I am blessed to have the opportunity to attempt to do so.