To Ms. Raquel Hernandez, teaching high school was just another opportunity to enhance the minds of students. However, to the administration at MLEC, and to her fellow colleagues, Ms. Hernandez was a force of nature. Her excitement to teach and constantly push students to exceed their boundaries not go unnoticed, and she was named the 2013-2014 teacher of the year.
“She is a very positive, dynamic individual who always works in a team approach, and her enthusiasm travels over to her students,” Dr. Lopez-Ochoa said.
After teaching elementary school students for 10 years and supporting fellow colleagues as a teaching coach, Raquel Hernandez took on the task of teaching low achieving high school students, and MLEC became her home. She has spent the past five years here, teaching intensive reading, a tedious task that most teachers avoid. But Ms. Hernandez did this with a joyous heart, looking at it as an opportunity, instead of a challenge, to teach “living monuments,” not abstractions.
This desire to make everyday a success and enhance the reading and writing of students isn’t new to Ms. Hernandez, however. She said that when she was younger, she would line up her dolls and teach them all the new things she had learned in school.
“Teaching is my calling…I believe every moment is a teachable one…I get to wear so many hats…I have to keep the class interesting,” she said.
She mentioned that she and her students were speaking about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela who had just passed away the day before. This is just one example of how she helps her students make a connection between how books portray the loss of a leader and how the people of South Africa are morning the loss of one of their leaders. Keeping her class a relatable, interesting learning environment is what Ms. Hernandez does best.
“I can say without hesitation that she is one of the two or three finest teachers I have ever seen in my 39 Year career in the classroom…she has a vibrant personality full of good, quick humor and cheer,” Joseph Walpole, an English teacher at MLEC, said.
While Ms. Hernandez was a reading coach, she not only touched the lives of her students, but also mentored fellow colleagues, one of which is Mr. Joseph Walpole. She wanted to extend the same strategies she used to students across the district.
But Ms. Hernandez loved working one on one with students and returned to the classroom to start her five year career at MLEC. When asked about future plans, she said she looks at everyday as an opportunity to change a child’s life and not like she is at a plateau. She wants to focus on the students she has this year, both the over achieving, and below average readers.
“Many students have a negative connotation towards reading and it impacts me when kids tell me it’s the first time they’re reading a book cover to cover. I’m able to change their minds…it’s impacting when they’re able to make reading their own. They keep me young and alive. They teach me words like swag,” she said.
“I take pride in being a little pebble in the milestone of graduating…” Ms. Hernandez, said. But Raquel Hernandez is more than just a pebble; she is a teacher, parent, counselor, and performer that changes the life of everyone she touches. With her warm smile, collaborating efforts, and encouragement she is a force of nature that, like Albert Einstein once said, “[conquers] the supreme art of [a] teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”