It’s been a great year for Lovell High School English teacher Katie Hernandez. In March she was honored as the Big Horn County School District No. 2 teacher of the year at the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce banquet. This month she received even more kudos as the recipient of the prestigious Arch Coal Award for teachers.
Hernandez has been teaching freshman and junior English at the school for eight years. She also acts as student council advisor.
“One of the things I love about my job is getting to work with the kids,” said Hernandez. “For me that’s the best part. I’m a teacher that has pretty high expectations and I try to hold the kids to those. It’s rewarding for me when kids learn. To know that all the hard work I put into this pays off for my students is a reward in itself.”
LHS school counselor Tawnya Teter nominated Hernandez for the honor. In her letter of recommendation she shared her thoughts about Hernandez from the perspective of a parent, as well as a peer.
“I have known Katie Hernandez in the capacity of a high school English teacher for more than four years,” wrote Teter in her nominating letter to the Arch Coal committee. “She taught my twin boys English. As a parent, I have found Mrs. Hernandez to be diligent and enthusiastic about her subject and passionate about helping kids learn.
“To Mrs. Hernandez’s credit, she has taken a subject that my twins have disliked and changed it into a subject that they enjoy. The rigor of her assignments is high but by the end of the unit she has taken them to a level I didn’t know they could reach. She has gotten my boys to read books that I never thought they would read and to think that ‘The Odyssey’ is an interesting poem and that Shakespeare is a cool guy. She wouldn’t give up on my boys and she went the extra mile for them.”
Principal Scott O’Tremba also wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of Hernandez.
“I have known Katie Hernandez since I hired her more than seven years ago to teach high school English,” wrote O’Tremba. “I have seen many good teachers in my 18 years as a principal and some great teachers. Mrs. Hernandez is truly one of the great ones.
“Last year I nominated her for our district teacher of the year award, which she won. This is saying a great deal in a highly functioning district as ours. Our district has ranked among the highest on statewide testing for many years and last year was our best overall ever. This award says much about Mrs. Hernandez being the cream-of-the-crop from an excellent district of teachers, not to mention in the whole state of Wyoming.”
Hernandez beat out 300 applicants for the award, which was presented to her at the school on Wednesday, May, 17. Only 10 teachers in the entire state received the award, which included a $3,500 check that she is free to use in any manner she sees fit.
“I know that Mrs. Hernandez is an expert in the field of English, but that is not what the most impressive part about her is. It is that she cares deeply about kids and wants to make a difference in their lives,” said Teter. “She has high expectations and she challenges the students to do their best, but she does it in a way that they know that she cares about them.”
“One characteristic that makes her so effective is her ability to plan great lessons,” said O’Tremba. “In our district, we have done a great deal of professional development for staff, so students receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Mrs. Hernandez follows this model. Her students know their objectives and how to attain them, are provided the instruction and support needed and they are assessed throughout her lessons.
“Mrs. Hernandez has mastered the art of writing lesson plans that incorporate a variety of learning modalities, while all students have access to the curriculum through iPads and textbooks and many learning activities. She differentiates through a learning policy.
“After attending the Differentiated Instruction Conference, Mrs. Hernandez came back to our school and rewrote her grading policy and procedures developing a learning policy that gave students options and chances to learn at their own pace based on their effort and needs and supporting assessment data.”
Hernandez was both humbled and honored to receive the acknowledgment.
“I feel very honored to receive this award, but I couldn’t be the teacher that I am without the support that I have,” said Hernandez. “That includes the support of Mr. O’Tremba and Mrs. Teter and all of my coworkers and, especially, my family at home. I feel like this represents the hard work of all of those people and not just me.”
By Patti Carpenter