May Dual Language Teacher of the Month
The Teacher of the month for May is Cynthia A. Hernandez, whose career as a bilingual educator spans 23 years. The last 6 years as a kindergarten teacher in the dual language program at Burnet Elementary School in Houston Independent School District.
Ms. Hernandez’s nomination came from Ms. Ana Cantú, who shared the following about her: “Mrs. Hernandez has been with our dual language program since its inception. Since starting the program, she has helped with mentoring the new grade level teachers as the program has moved up. Ms. Hernandez has helped in editing and creating the curriculum. She has been vital in making our school a model school in the district, and her classroom has been visited by new teachers, new administrators, and many more to support dual language in other schools. She uses dual Language strategies throughout and is innovating in using the age-appropriate strategies for the kindergarten students. She helps in mentoring future teachers as well!”
Her pursuit of a career in education came from her desire to make a positive change in children’s lives. Understanding that children need a strong foundation as they embark on their educational journey, she became a kindergarten teacher. As a kindergarten teacher, she can ensure that they have a positive experience at school, providing them with a solid foundation in their schooling experience.
Throughout her career, she has had a strong desire to give back to the community and work in schools where students needed the most help. In most of the schools where she worked, the students were from families with a low socioeconomic status. These schools were far from her home. She shared the following: “I’ve been making the drive to my school every day, even with horrible, rough traffic which occurs practically every day.”
Her favorite part of being a teacher is when she makes a connection with her students. She is inspired when they learn to read, and most of them do. She knows it is a significant accomplishment in kindergarten to be able to read at a level D or higher. Her students take pride in mastering their goals, and she is incredibly proud of them. They all know that they are successful learners.
In her classroom, she sets up a welcoming environment for the students. The first thing you notice when you walk into her classroom is an organized space with many visual aids, including math wall work mats. You also see students engaged and working in creative workstation activities that entail higher-order skills.
When asked how she challenges her students outside of the classroom, she responded: “I challenge my students by modeling how we can create problems for math ( i.e., different ways to make a number) and for them to ask different questions about the books they are reading and by drawing their interpretation of a book they’ve’ read.”
As a dual language teacher, she understands the importance of biliteracy. She shares with her students that biliteracy means reading and writing in two languages, along with good comprehension in both languages. She emphasizes the value of biliteracy that it is a great asset to obtain in the workplace as in any place in the world. Her students know that they have the advantage of making a positive impact in the world by becoming successful, independent learners in not only one, but two languages, or possibly more.
As she continues her career as a dual language kindergarten teacher, she hopes that she is shaping her students’ lives by providing a good foundation in education, a positive and nurturing environment, and positioning them for a lifetime of success as lifelong learners who are bilingual and biliterate.