LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Samantha Hernandez

Position: AP Psychology / AICE Sociology Teacher
School: Spanish River Community High School
School District: Palm Beach County School District
City, State: Boca Raton, FL

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Samantha Hernandez was nominated by an anonymous student.

"My fellow classmates and I have unanimously concluded that 'Mrs. H' not only exemplifies the best model of a teacher, but is a great and compassionate human being with the highest moral and ethical standards," said the student. "She leads by example, never being afraid to communicate to someone in need. I cannot imagine any other teacher in the United States who hasn’t had a more direct impact on students’ lives. Not only has she changed my life, but many of my peers have grown enormously because of her. Whether it's through her AP Psychology or AICE Sociology classes, casually chatting with her on campus, or direct involvement with her club, We Dine Together, students naturally gravitate to her kindness and enthusiasm."

"From my very first day of meeting her, I came home beaming with delight about how different this teacher is from all the rest," said the student. "She's so open and welcoming, and she's genuinely interested in the students. I felt as if Mrs. H taught only to me, despite being in a class of thirty students. Every class started with conversations about things that personally affect us: family strife, perseverance through hardships, and mental health."

Since Mrs. H teaches Psychology, there is a lot of internalization in what is being taught. Mrs. H freely recalls her own personal experiences as an example of lessons being discussed. This makes everyone connect with her and helps crystalize long-term memorization of what is needed to be learned because Mrs. H makes everything so real and fun. According to the administration, she continuously has one of the highest pass rates in the county for both Psychology and Sociology exams. She also was chosen as Teacher of the Year last year.

Because of her infectious positive outlook, many students are drawn to her outside of the classroom and want to participate in her club, We Dine Together. It's a new organization at the school that aims to end social isolation. We Dine Together has received national attention for its success in connecting students during lunch period and establishing long-term relationships with other staff members. These lunch meetings consist of student- and teacher-led discussions about overcoming life’s challenges, active listening, mindfulness, and other ways to better connect with one another.  

"Through my early involvement with her, I have watched this group transform from ten members to over 100 in only a couple years," said the student. "On a personal level, I have seen my own progression in building self-confidence and learning to be more empathetic to other students’ concerns. As a student leader, I take great pleasure witnessing fellow students, who have been bullied or are new to the school, walk into our lunch meetings and walk out feeling connected and valued."

Last year, Mrs. H led a school-wide assembly with a guest speaker, Dianne Grossman of Mallory’s Army, which is an outreach organization she created after her daughter experienced bullying and ultimately committed suicide. After Mrs. Grossman gave an emotional appeal to change the school’s culture, Mrs. H spoke to the entire school about ways to implement these understandings. Some of the We Dine Together club members gave testimony of their own victimizations.

"Watching Mrs. H go on stage with a presence that makes students feel like they are not alone is the most special thing I have seen from a teacher on campus," said the student. "Through this presentation, our school now has an elevated understanding of the impacts of bullying and ostracism. By being closer with Mrs. H outside of the classroom, I see her as a true role model and a beacon guiding her moral compass. In many ways, I see myself wanting to be a mirror of Mrs. H."

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Comments (4)

Kerry Posted 8 days ago

I can not recommend Samantha Hernandez enough for this incredibly prestigious award. She has been the most amazing positive influence on my daughter in her entire 4 years of high school. From the very first week of school when she was in Mrs. G’s class, my daughter came home beaming about how inspired she was from her AP Psych teacher. She loved the subject matter and how well Mrs H was able to make the material applicable to each and every student. She made herself available before and after school for any student who needed an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, or advice on how to handle any situation. She inspired my daughter to get outside her comfort zone and grow as a student leader becoming actively involved in her after school club promoting inclusivity at school. I feel so very fortunate to have such a remarkable teacher at our school- she has sincerely touched every student in her classes in the most positive way. There are no words to communicate my gratitude in what she has done for my child!

Mingni Qu Posted 10 days ago

Mrs. Hernandez genuinely cares about the subject and the class that she teaches. She goes out of her way to make learning in her class as easy as possible. She speaks in a loud, excited tone in order to prevent students from getting lulled to sleep by a monotonous lecture. She posts colorful PowerPoints with many visuals or videos to help students—especially visual learners—pick up and conceptualize important ideas. She includes mnemonic devices, analogies and other psychological learning tools so that students can memorize more concepts more easily. She is very approachable and understanding and you feel like you could tell her anything. She is willing to listen to any student who’s having a bad day and can spot when someone in her class is having a hard time emotionally. When I took the AP Psych exam at the end of the year, I felt well-prepared. Even the weird, obscure stuff that ended up on the exam were mentioned in class at some point so that I fortunately had at least some idea of what the question was asking me instead of having no clue like students from other schools. I couldn’t ask for a better teacher.

Anonymous Student Posted 10 days ago

Mrs. Hernandez has had a significant impact on my life and is person that I look up to as a role model. Mrs. H introduced me to my passion of psychology. I took her class Ap Psychology my junior year and absolutely fell in love with the class because of the way she presented the material to her students. Whether it was through an extensive review or a documentary of the content the class was learning, Mrs. Hernandez made sure that every single student in her class understood and properly applied the content we learned in class to a real life scenario. Other than her fantastic teaching, Mrs. H acted as a mentor to me. She introduced me to the club she sponsored, We Dine Together, a club that fought social isolation and bullying through the power of striking up a conversation with a stranger. Every student that walked into her classroom was welcomed with an overwhelming feeling of kindness and support form Mrs. H whether she knew them or not. Personally, Mrs. Hernandez left her lasting impact in my life through her kindness and willingness to listen to my issues. My junior year of high school was the most challenging of my high school experience academically and personally. Mrs. H always made me feel comfortable to talk with her about anything and provided me with advice if I needed it. After watching her pour her kindness and compassion to each student she met, I knew that I wanted to mirror her actions. Every student who has had Mrs. H as a teacher or has met her can say that she is an incredible person and someone everyone can look to as a role model.

Jhaila Posted 10 days ago

Mrs.H is genuinely invested in the success of her students and she makes sure that each of her students feels heard, understood, and valued. She’s truly the best teacher of all time.