Teacher Tribute: Mildred Hernandez


Provided by: K. Finnessy

Holding up a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) frame, Señora Hernandez stands at a table in the senior lounge for students to come get candy during all three lunches. Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, Dia de los Muertos is an annual holiday, recognized in Mexican culture to remember family members who have passed away.

Hannah Hortman, Editor-in-Chief

  Señora Hernandez has always had an adoration for teaching. She recalls playing “schoolhouse” in her basement where she would teach her daughter all the different subjects, enticing her to become a teacher. Specifically, she decided to become a Spanish teacher because she grew up immersed in the language and was eager to introduce her Puerto Rican culture to her students.

  Señora Hernandez has been teaching for seventeen years. In her eleventh year at Millbrook, she teaches all levels of Spanish, starting from Spanish I all the way to AP and IB Spanish. She recognizes that students who are not native speakers take more time to grasp the language. Señora Hernandez states, “We always have to analyze our students very well as to what they can really achieve. We have to know them pretty well in order to know how we are going to adjust our lessons.” Students do not always cover all the content in level one, so Señora Hernandez makes sure to teach her students the rest of level one before moving on to the next level.

  She also feels that being a world language teacher helps her connect with students on a deeper level because “the things that we talk about in the language always relate to the themes that they are learning within themselves as well as within the community.” For example, she explains how her blocked class is studying the structure, values, and culture of a Mexican family to give students a view of what other cultures go through compared to their own.

  In addition, Señora Hernandez challenges her IB students with cultural projects such as planning a quinceañera, a Mexican celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday that families typically spend around two years planning. Students have different roles such as managing the event budget or choreographing dances for the event. In late October, administrators and teachers received their invitations to attend a quinceañera with music, dancing, decorations, and food. When asked about the value of cultural projects like the quinceañera, senior Erin Schuette comments, “It is engaging with the culture because that is just as important because language is a really key component of culture, so learning how to apply that in its own setting is important.”

  Every month, Spanish Honor Society tries to integrate a particular event that relates to the Spanish culture. For Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday to remember loved ones, they decorate a table like an altar and encourage students to check it out. Señora Hernandez explains, “We give them a little fun fact in dual-language, Spanish and English. Then, we give them little treats, and we have a photo booth for them to take pictures.” Expressing her excitement for sharing culture with the student body, she exclaims, “It gives them a curiosity of asking questions!”  She remembers her college professor telling her that the only way to get students motivated and engaged is for the teacher to be motivated and engaged themselves. “You have to create that environment; I can give them the guidance, but I want them to explode.”

  Throughout her time at Millbrook, Señora Hernandez’s creativity has shone through her work both in and out of the classroom. When asked to describe Señora Hernandez, senior Erin Schuette says, “She has a really infectious laugh, and she always makes me smile.” Because of her willingness to help her students and her passion for teaching others about the Spanish language and Hispanic culture, Señora Hernandez is an inspiration to the Millbrook community.