A Passion for Education
Tammy Silver would say education has been the lifeblood for her and her family. It was the foundation on which her parents built their family business; it was a major platform for her when she ran for public office in 2019; it is also the very thing that has shaped her into who she is today: a strong-minded, passionate individual with a focus on community and social justice.
“Education,” she says, “is a wonderful thing for anyone striving for a better life for themselves and their family.”
It certainly has been that for her. And it is why she is an avid supporter of PCC.
To begin with, Tammy’s history has more to do with education globally. Her parents were teachers, and both have their roots in the San Gabriel Valley.
“My mother grew up in El Monte and went to Whittier College,” Tammy explained. “And my dad was in the first graduating class at Rosemead High School. He studied at East L.A. College—known then as East L.A. Junior College—before going on to Cal State L.A. to earn his teaching credential.”
Tammy herself grew up in Covina and is a USC alumna. But her interest in community colleges runs far deeper than their social utility. For her, the interest is a personal one. Her father had been the first in his family to receive a higher education, and it is because of his access to the California Community College system that he found his success.
“Community colleges were a path to a better life for my family,” Tammy said. “And PCC specifically has great success in transforming students into college graduates and creating a well-educated workforce.”
From an early age, Tammy would help out every Saturday at her parents’ school supply store, Warren’s Educational Supplies.
“I literally grew up in our family business in education,” she said. “I was surrounded by school supplies and teachers all the time. I remember my own teachers asking me what would be good for their classrooms, and I’d suggest various materials that I thought would be useful.”
When Tammy’s parents first started their business in the 60s, there wasn’t the market for school supplies that there is today. In fact, they had to buy most of their products from a company in England, which took weeks to ship.
“I remember going down to the docks in San Pedro to get these big wooden crates that had come all the way from England,” Tammy said. “We’d bring them home and open them up. They would be filled with all kinds of teaching materials: cards, puzzles, workbooks, you name it. And one of the things was a chart where you could put students’ names on one side and a grid for stickers on the other.”
This, Tammy explained, was an incentive chart. It was a way to reward students for various achievements, such as reading certain books or exhibiting great classroom behavior. The problem, however, was that the charts were printed on gray paper.
“It was kind of dull,” Tammy said, “and so my parents got the idea to start printing these charts on brightly colored paper. Something that would attract the eye. They even invented a variety of little stickers that would fit into the small square spaces of the chart, and they sold like crazy!”
It was during this time that Tammy’s parents started their own publishing company, American Teaching Aids, for which Tammy worked as a salesperson between semesters in college.
“For a summer job, me and one of my girlfriend’s would get in our family station wagon and drive across the country—one summer the southern route, the next the northern route,” she said. “We’d visit companies and show them our sample case and, if we were lucky, come out with a sale.”
It is in these early years where Tammy gained her enthusiasm and “go get ‘em” attitude that eventually compelled her to study business at USC. Though she came from a family of teachers, it was the prospect of learning how to manage the business side of education that interested her.
Fast forward to today and Tammy is a member of the PCC Board of Trustees, representing Area 4, which serves the communities of Pasadena, San Gabriel, Temple City, and Arcadia. She is also on the PCC Budget and Audit Committee.
“By supporting PCC, we can attract interesting, future-facing, high-paying companies and jobs here in the San Gabriel Valley,” Tammy said. “With the resources this area already has in the arts and the sciences, and with a synergy between Caltech and PCC students, there is no reason why world-beating companies couldn’t locate or be created right here. PCC is critical to providing that foundational, educated workforce.”
Locally, Tammy has been a longtime volunteer with College Access Plan and National Women’s Political Caucus. She has also been an avid supporter of Friends in Deed and Planned Parenthood, and proudly supports Dr. Erika Endrijonas’s goal to close the College’s equity gaps by 2027.
“This means that students of all backgrounds will transfer or earn a degree or a certificate at the same rate,” she explained. “I don’t know of another community college that has set forth a goal as ambitious as this, and I am all for it!”
In her role as Trustee, Tammy plans to help create a policy that boosts the overall outcomes for PCC students and increase graduation and transfer rates. In addition, she hopes to foster a culture of transparency and curiosity at the College.
“Transparency, so the public can find details and data about the College,” she said. “And curiosity, so we don’t rest on our laurels but are constantly questioning and searching for ways to improve.”
Just as her own family benefited greatly from community college, Tammy wants students to find the same avenues for success at PCC. And for her, that’s the job. Education should make people’s lives better and cultivate opportunities for the community. And with her passion for education and her strong business skills, Tammy wants to help PCC be the most accessible, most resourceful, and most outstanding community college in the state.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for community colleges and what they did for my family,” Tammy said. “And PCC is the kind of community college where you can get a world class education.”