For 30 years, Pascuala Herrera worked as a community college professor, shaping the young minds of students with disabilities. Since retirement, her passions have led her to become an award-winning author. Her works delve into her life experience as a Latina woman with a disability and the valuable lessons that the highs and lows of her journey has taught her.
Childhood Experiences Led to Lifelong Commitment to Disability Awareness
Pascuala Herrera contracted polio at the age of nine months in Mexico. Due to lack of medical care and because of her disability, she scooted around on the floors of her pueblo in Durango Mexico until coming to Chicago, Illinois when she was six. As an immigrant woman with a physical disability, she had the odds against her. Yet she conquered simply by working hard, having unfailing faith and finding her own life purpose.
She obtained her bachelor's degree and master's in education degree from DePaul University. She had a successful 30-year career as a college professor and Accessibility Specialist at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, until her retirement in June 2020. In this role, she assisted thousands of students, especially those with disabilities, in and outside of a classroom.
While at Harper, Pascuala also developed a graduate equivalency course titled, "Creating an Accessible Learning Environment for Students with Disabilities" which was offered to Harper faculty and staff that she continues to teach even after retirement.
Most recently she is the co-founder of Educators 4 Equity and Justice, a partnership that teaches faculty nationwide how to create equitable and just classrooms through online courses. She teaches the courses on disability, helping faculty in learning strategies to make every classroom accessible.
Pascuala Transforms her Journey as a Disabled Woman into Award-Winning Prose
In addition, Pascuala published a memoir in March of 2021 titled, "Not Always a Valley of Tears: A Memoir of a Life Well-Lived" which is also available in Spanish. Although her mother always told her that "life was a valley of tears," Pascuala learned that although there were many difficult moments in her life, there were also beautiful miracles that happened every day.
Her memoir recently won the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project Award for the Spanish category, De la Página a La Fama. In this award-winning memoir, Pascuala tells her life's narrative with honest painful stories, simple yet joyous triumphs, and humor that will lead all readers to embrace their own struggles and realize that life is "Not Always a Valley of Tears."
From being a child scooting around on dirt roads of her pueblo in Mexico to becoming a successful educator in the United States, she proved that everything is possible. This autobiography covers many facets of the human experience—race, health, disability, relion, poverty, immigration, access to medical care, education, disability rights, miscarriage, adoption and much more.
She also published a children's book in September 2021 titled "My Mom Rocks: Her Chair Rolls" with a version in Spanish. In her children's rhyming picture book, Pascuala shares a story from the perspective of her daughter describing her experiences being raised by a mom who uses a wheelchair. The story emphasizes that physical ability is not a requirement for being a loving parent.
Her most recent book on personal growth, Life is a Garden to Cultivate will guide readers to reflect on their lives and discover the power they have to live a joyful and fulfilling life. By sharing stories about her own experiences as a Latina immigrant woman with a physical disability, and her professional experiences as an educator, Pascuala Herrera describes the lessons she has learned that have steered her towards identifying and working towards overcoming her life's challenges. Using the ABCs, she encourages readers to reflect on barriers that hinder them from living a better life. Each chapter includes reflection questions that assist readers in making new discoveries about their own lives.
"Life can be difficult for everyone, but it can also be marvelous! Like a beautiful garden, everyone's life needs to be constantly cultivated to have a better life," say Pascuala. "Working on our lives is never easy or ever complete, but with reflection one is led to understand the necessary changes that will lead to personal growth. Each person has one life so it should be lived the best way possible. Just like a beautiful flower, a person's life can flourish no matter what obstacles are faced."
Devotion to Disability Inclusion and Awareness Continues
In addition to her writing, Pascuala has dedicated herself to Ableism and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Trainings as well as doing motivational presentations. She is a frequent local and national presenter on the topic of her life experience, disability awareness, creating accessible learning environments, motivation, and the importance of education for Latinos and individuals with disabilities. As a disabled Latina woman she inspires and motivates others in working towards achieving their aspirations despite any challenges they face.
To learn more about Pascuala books and speaking engagements, visit pascualaherrera.com.
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