Spotlight on: Heather Spanfelner

Heather Spanfelner at Herkimer CSD career day

Spotlight on: Heather Spanfelner
2001 Herkimer CSD graduate


Q. What do you do now?

A. I am a supervisor in the Department of Therapeutic Recreation at Nassau University Medical Center on Long Island. I work with a wide range of patients from inpatient pediatrics to adult services for substance use, behavioral health and physical medicine to support self-expression and increase physical, cognitive, emotional and or/social functioning through a variety of modalities such as visual arts, music and yoga and community engagement.


Q. What’s your favorite high school memory?

A. My favorite memory from HHS was participating in the musicals, from seventh and eighth grade being on crew, to my high school years singing and dancing on stage.


Q. What else have you been doing between when you graduated from Herkimer and now?

A. After graduating from Herkimer, I attended Herkimer College, transferred to Long Island University to complete my bachelor’s degree in clinical art therapy and attended Hofstra University to enroll in their creative arts therapy counseling program. I also completed training to become a registered yoga teacher to further promote mindfulness and alternative mental health opportunities to the patients I serve. I still enjoy creating art and participate in volunteer programs within my community that support the arts and mental health.


Q. What was it like to be able to return to Herkimer and speak to students for a recent career day?

A. The school has changed quite a bit since my years as a student, but so many memories of my time there flooded back into my mind. I was happy to engage with the students and hopefully helped plant a seed for some future careers in mental health and creative arts therapy fields.


Q. You painted the mural in the auxiliary gym. Why did you want to do that and what did it mean to you to be able to do that?

A. I was attending Herkimer College and enrolled in the national honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. As part of our commitment to the program, we were encouraged to create a community service project. I worked with school administration to commission the mural as a way to give back to the school that helped me develop my passion for art. When I attended the recent career day, I was excited to see it still there after 22 years!


Q. Did anyone from Herkimer Central School District influence you in becoming who you are today?

A. There are many educators who influenced who I have become, many of whom have retired, but I hope they see this and know their impact. My mother, Mrs. Spanfelner, who while working in the elementary school library brought home literature on art therapy, planting the first seed for my career choice. Mr. Turner for inspiring reading in the advanced English class. I still tell his stories about some of the classical books we read in class. Mr. Krause for all the years in the musical program, the teachers who encouraged my artistic abilities, and finally Mr. Clarke for teaching the elective “intro to psychology” my senior year, planting another seed for my career choice. I also give Mr. Clarke credit for my yearly participation in the Boilermaker Road Race when he coached me in cross country. I still walk during the race more than I run though.


Q. What advice do you have for current Herkimer students?

A. Follow your passion, be true to who you are and find the people that support you in your journey.



Heather Spanfelner at Herkimer CSD career day

2001 Herkimer CSD graduate Heather Spanfelner recently returned to Herkimer for a career day at the Jr./Sr. High School.


Heather Spanfelner posing by mural she painted in aux gym

Heather Spanfelner posing by a mural she painted in the auxiliary gym.


Heather Spanfelner with pediatrics

Cultural diversity project

Heather Spanfelner with New York Islanders

Heather Spanfelner and others in Halloween outfits

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