Dr. J — From Midwestern Farm Girl to World- Traveling School Superintendent
If your first impression of Dr. Jennifer Herrera is what you read on her resume, you will be very surprised when you actually meet her in person. On paper she is a highly educated, fiercely driven, world-traveled, savvy business person. When you meet her in person, however, you’ll discover she is a warm, down home, farm-raised, joy-filled, kid-loving woman. All of the degrees and drive were just a way for her to do what she loves most–to educate children in the richest, most growth inspiring atmosphere imaginable.
Trailblazer at a Young Age
Jennifer Ellen Smith was born in Oxford, Ohio. She grew up in nearby Brookville, Indiana, where her dad farmed and worked in business and her mom was a teacher. Jennifer was the only girl in her family and her two older brothers soon discovered that the best use for a sister is to make her go first. First to test if the rope swing over the creek worked, first to jump off the hayloft, first to see if the bull in the pasture could be outrun. So being a trailblazer was something Jennifer learned early on and has embraced all her life.
Down on the Farm
Jennifer loved growing up on a farm. She loved the animals, the open air and the adventures around every corner. But growing up on a farm also involves a lot of chores, which instilled Jennifer with an incredible work ethic. Jennifer was also an avid student and was fascinated by other cultures and lands. Discovering she was prolific at learning other languages fueled this passion. Combined with her deep Christian faith and desire to be a missionary, world travel seemed inevitable. As much as she loved life on the farm, deep down she knew someday she would be leaving to pursue her own dreams.
Pursuing Her Passions
But first things first. Jennifer pursued her education with enthusiasm. She loved school and was active in and out of the classroom. She participated in many different sports and started to exhibit her leadership skills when she was elected student council president in high school. When Jennifer was just 14 years old she travelled to Mexico City on a trip organized by her high school Spanish teacher. It was on that trip that Jennifer’s confidence and proficiency in speaking Spanish really took hold. So when Jennifer continued on to Ball State University, she chose to study Elementary Education with a bilingual endorsement. When it came time to do her student teaching, Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to teach in the small border town of Nogales, AZ.
Citizen of the World
Jennifer describes herself as a citizen of the world, meaning she feels she could live anywhere. But in southern Arizona, Jennifer discovered two things. She often had the opportunity to speak Spanish, which she loved, and she saw many people living in poverty, which deeply touched her heart. Her childhood dream of doing missionary work was renewed. It was during this time while at church that Jennifer also met her husband, Wences Herrera. They were married in 1989.
Never Stop Learning
The Herreras eventually moved to Tucson where Jennifer continued teaching and working at church. She also continued on with her own education. She received her Master’s Degree in Multicultural Bilingual Education at The University of Arizona. She went on to earn her doctorate degree. But being as other-focused as Jennifer is, she soon had to pursue a way to use her gifts and education to help others.
Tucson International Academy is Born
Combining her love of education, linguistics, ministry, and multicultural studies, Jennifer opened the doors to Tucson International Academy in 2002. The first campus was located on Broadway and has now expanded to include 3 more campuses. And it truly is a family affair. Jennifer is the school superintendent, Jennifer’s husband Wences is a co-founder of the school and also teaches Spanish. Their 17 year old daughter has attended TIA her whole life. TIA is the amazing school that it is today because of the passion, hard work, vision and other-focused heart of its beloved founder and school superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Herrera.
Enroll in this amazing school today!