Myriam Hernandez, a mentor at the Hernández K-8 School, is our recipient of the 2021 John C. Rennie Mentor of the Year Award. A mentor for four years, Myriam is recognized for her work supporting the Hernández’s dual language curriculum.

Our 2021 John C. Rennie Mentor of the Year is Myriam Hernandez, a name you might recognize from a previous story on our blog. She is known for having a “familiar face,” especially to students at the Rafael Hernández K-8 School where she has been mentoring for almost five years now. 

Myriam has worked with Ana for three of those years – the pair were matched when Ana was just seven years old. Now in third-grade, Ana meets with Myriam over Zoom to continue their relationship while learning remotely. 

Myriam receives the Mentor of the Year Award not only for her work with Ana, but for her integral support of the Hernández School’s dual language mission. A bilingual speaker, Myriam reads with her students in a mixture of Spanish and English languages – often making time to support other students around the school who have come to recognize her. 

Over the years, Myriam has developed a reputation as honorary Hernández “family” that has made her an especially trusted figure at the school. This year, virtual learning has even allowed Myriam to literally build a relationship with Ana’s family.

“Ana is at home with her grandmother, her youngest brother, and sometimes her mother and grandfather. So it’s like the whole family is there.” 

During a typical mentoring session, Myriam wouldn’t be surprised to see Ana’s little brother in the corner of the screen. He attends a different school, but in true sibling fashion he’s often curious what his older sister is up to. Eventually, the inquisitive six-year-old decided to join Ana in front of the camera. He asked Myriam if she could give him Zoom access too. 

“He wanted to have my password because he wanted me to be his mentor,” Myriam explains. Now she welcomes Ana’s brother to sit down with them when it’s time to read a story.

Ana’s brother isn’t the only family member Myriam has met this school year. When the year began, Myriam noticed that Ana’s grandparents would be nearby and were also curious about their work together. What makes Myriam such a special mentor is her ability to make everyone feel comfortable and included.

“I do think my advantage from the beginning has been that I speak the language, so I make sure that there is a story in Spanish or a song in Spanish so Ana’s grandmother or other family in the background will know what’s going on. There’s an issue of trust when you’re talking about a kid, right? So we will switch to English but I always try to make an introduction in Spanish first, and I think it works well.”

For Ana’s family, Myriam has been a valuable resource to stay connected to their student’s academic life. She’s welcomed their questions and has even helped foster a bridge between Ana’s parents and teacher.

“Sometimes Ana’s grandmother will get on the screen because she wants to ask me something related to her brother even though he’s in a different school and a different grade. Or, Ana’s mother will get on the phone to ask how to talk to the teacher. And I think… that would have been my mom if I had been the student because my mother would not have known how to deal with the technology.”

In a challenging school year like this one, Myriam’s willingness to learn new technology in order to continue supporting Ana reinforces her commitment to the students.

“Zoom was a struggle for me,” admits Myriam. “Many times I thought about quitting until I reflected on the students and why I’m here. I used to be one of those students at risk until my teachers and many others pushed me to have goals and to dream.”

Myriam has become a special part of both the BPIE and Hernández School communities. She’s embraced her role as a friend and role model, truly representing what it means to be Mentor of the Year. “I’m just very happy and surprised,” says Myriam. “To me, the kids are a gift – they just give me so much joy. This is definitely a connection that goes both ways.”