MILTON — Just one year removed from high school, Erin Henson Quartman found herself to be a single mother with limited prospects for a vibrant future.
“I said ‘I am going to make the best life I can with the circumstances I have,’” she recalled.
Quartman grew up in Modesto, Calif. What she describes as “life circumstances” brought her to Pennsylvania.
The Milton Area High School’s auxiliary high school teacher and cyber school coordinator, Quartman received a bachelor’s degree from Lock Haven University, and a Masters of Education and Curriculum from Bloomsburg University.
She has worked in the Milton district for seven years. Prior to that, she served as a substitute at various area school districts for six years.
Recently, Quartman was named Milton’s Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Drawing inspiration from her own life, Quartman long knew she wanted to become a teachers.
“At the end of the day, my grandpa and I had an in-depth conversation about what I wanted to do with my life,” she recalled. “I said I wanted to change the world. He asked how I was going to do that. I said I wanted to be a teacher.”
Quartman said some students go through life feeling as if they’re lost, but then an adult steps in and inspires them.
“That one person an make a difference in a child’s life,” she said.
She describes Milton’s auxiliary high school as a “non-traditional program for non-traditional kids.”
“The kids just don’t find success in regular brick and mortar schools,” Quartman explained. “I call it the Island of Misfit Toys. We’re all a little broken, but we’re still good toys.”
She said the program averages 20 students, whom she works one-on-one with.
Prior to school doors being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Quartman said students attended her classroom at Milton. Throughout the day, they completed online studies while in the room and receiving instruction from Quartman.
“I do my best to encourage them,” she said. “I am not going to enable them to get what they want.”
Quartman draws from her own experiences as a young, single mother while working with the students. She added that she never “sugar coats” life, or school, situations for the students.
“We do a graduation audit, what they have verses what they need (to graduate)... we go from there,” she said. “I could be helping a kid write a research paper.”
Quartman also works with students to research information they need in order to complete other online classes they are taking.
“It is rewarding, at the end of the day, when I see these kids reach goals when they don’t think they could,” she said. “They have kids, probation officers. Some kids are in foster care.
“Watching them graduate... is all the reward I need,” she continued. “Even if they never say ‘thank you.’”
Quartman was moved to tears after the Milton Area School District posted on social media that she was named Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Students which she had in the past — some of whom she barely remembered as they were students in classes where she served as a substitute teacher — posted kind comments about the impact Quartman had on their life.
She was a bit disappointed the post needed to be removed due to technical difficulties, and the kind words disappeared from cyber space.
“I even had kids from my first long-term (substitute) job in Selinsgrove got on there and posted something,” Quartman said. “It is humbling to know no matter how much time has passed that I am still in their thoughts.”
In addition to being named Milton’s Secondary Teacher of the Year, Quartman several years ago was recognized as the Northumberland County Juvenile Court Educator of the Year.
She and her husband, Jason Quartman, live in the Lewisburg area. Her daughter, Tenaja Henson, recently graduated from Guilford College in North Carolina. She also has a stepson, Zion Munro.