Two instructors chosen as Trinidad State Employees of the Year
Trinidad Campus / January 18, 2021 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
Kay Evans came to Trinidad State 16 years ago with a world of experience – literally – her extensive travels taking her to 53 countries. She left home in New Zealand at the age of 21 already having completed her nurses’ training. She worked in a children’s hospital in the United Kingdom, then took a job in Cyprus where she set up two operating “theatres.” While there she learned to speak Greek. She learned Russian in high school and speaks Indonesian-Malay as well. She returned to the UK once again and while there studied Chinese medicine and did massage training. She added sports training to her massage work and learned about body work and psychology which helped her to understand that mental and emotional states can impact body cells. She went on to complete her master’s thesis in Transformational Studies, the process of human transformation involving breath work and Qigong (“Chi” gong), a Chinese system of physical exercises and controlled breathing.
Her keen interest in plants and healing led to essential oils, then to her aromatherapy business established in the UK and then to her book about essential oils book which she has used in class at Trinidad State. After she sold that business, her search for “what’s next” took her to the United States - to Boulder, Colorado, where she attended a workshop. Due to a plane malfunction, her flight home was delayed and she met the man she would marry. She would return to the U.S., marry, and take a job nursing at Parkview Hospital in Pueblo. Meanwhile, Trinidad State learned of her expertise and asked her to teach an aromatherapy class at the college. The next year she was asked to take over the Massage and Holistic Health programs at the college and has been the director there since January 2004.
“In the last couple years two things have become more focused for me as I realize their intense value to health,” said Evans. “One is relaxation, and the other is breathing. Breathing is our own personal technology that we have to check our human systems like nothing else can,” she said. “For example, studies have shown that slow nasal breathing can prevent chronic inflammation.”
Evans thinks stress and unresolved pain are probably the root cause of more people seeking alternative health care. “This time in COVID is showing us how much we need the things that we do (referring to the massage department at the college),” she said. Some college personnel, who are just now experiencing what the program has to offer, are learning body work is an effective de-stresser that promotes relaxation.
While the program is ending, that doesn’t deter Evans from seeking other avenues in which to serve. “There’s nothing else to do but be in service in my mind,” said Evans – always the optimist. “Life has always opened a door when another one closes.”
So, what is on the horizon for this adventuresome woman? She would love to visit Central America and learn to speak Spanish. And she is keeping her eye out for her next great adventure.
Terri Herbstritt, on the other hand, has begun her next great adventure at Trinidad State. A California native, she knows what it means to work her way up. “I grew up in poverty,” she said. Her dad served as a military policeman, and then a civilian policeman, but after he lost his leg in a shooting accident, he was unable to find work or get on disability. It was devastating for the family. Her mom went to work for a governmental agency to support the family. “My parents struggled to get $10 together for gas so we could go to LA and visit our grandparents,” said Herbstritt who was raised in Ukiah, CA. “As a single parent with a child to support, I had to figure it out on my own. Education was the way to do it,” she said. She was 22 and on welfare when her son went to Head Start and she started college. With the help of a Pell Grant, she began her education at the Mendocino Community College.
In high school, psychology was one of her favorite classes. “I was really curious about how people work, what makes us who we are and what motivates us,” she said. “It took me 20 years to get my Masters. I chipped away at it while I was raising my child and working full-time,” she said. “That’s when I learned to spell curriculum!”
Herbstritt has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Education.
“I spent a lot of time supporting families with children with special needs. It’s so neat to see more and more people with different abilities have more opportunity to interact with the community,” she said. For one assignment, she piloted a family support specialist position. Within three years every site had a family support specialist.
She then helped develop protocols for developmental screenings in the context of well-child checks making sure all children birth to five were getting their educational and occupational needs met. While in California she taught Psychology for National University and she taught for the Child Development Department for Mendocino Community College. Most of her classes took place on the nearby Mendocino Indian Reservation. At first her classroom was a small room in the back of a store, but the program grew rapidly and now has its own center.
During the 15 years Herbstritt worked on the reservation, she learned a lot about different cultures and about herself. “It was fascinating to see the culture, to be a part of it, to be invited to ceremony and be a part of that. I miss that and I miss the redwoods and the ocean and my friends and family.”
The family moved here on a leap of faith arriving in Trinidad on August 19, 2016, with all their belongings loaded on a truck. At first, they stayed at a motel. They had no jobs lined up and they knew no one. Herbstritt’s first contact in Trinidad was with Relay for Life which she is passionate about having lost both of her parents to cancer.
She ultimately landed an adjunct (part-time) position which would start in January of 2017. “It was a grand adventure, and it was scary,” said Herbstritt.
“I love seeing psychology through my students’ eyes. They do a lot of reflective work. It reinforces humanity,” said Herbstritt. “We’re all human. We all have our own journeys. This really bright and well-poised young person may have been to hell and back. I have no idea. It’s incredible to read their stories and how they relate to the material.”
“I love the friendliness of the people here. And I love that we were able to afford a house. It has been good for us,” she said. Affordable living, the Southwest geographical area, available jobs and living in Colorado were all factors in their move. “I’m so glad my adult son moved with us,” said Herbstritt who “finally” married six years ago. Her son was 26 years old then and her dad quipped, “You finally found a daddy for John!”
The other two employees of the year are Al Malespini, Facilities Director, and Francisco Lucas, Maintenance Director for the Valley Campus.