Outdoor classroom inspired Hernandez

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Andalusia Elementary School’s new special education teacher, Vanessa Hernandez, was inspired to teach after teaching an outdoor education class for the federal government.

“I was working for the federal government at the time, maintaining wildlife in the forest,” Hernandez said. “I got the chance to teach because the forest I worked in had a big educational program, and the kids were just really interested in everything so I thought, ‘Wow. Maybe I can do this for a living.’”

Hernandez is a native of El Paso, Texas, and has been all around the Southeast teaching for 11 years. She has taught in Opp, where she spent the last year, Enterprise, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture from New Mexico State and her master’s degree in special education from Murray State University in Kentucky.

Hernandez said that the best part of her job is that it is flexible and that she gets to grow personally.

“Getting to know the kids helps me grow,” Hernandez said. “They are amazing and getting to know all of them on a personal level helps me grow as a better person.”

Hernandez has 14 kids in her class, but said that she helps out all around her hall.

“When you have so many special needs children, we need to be able to work together,” Hernandez said. “So I make sure to help out all my fellow teachers when I can.”

The biggest challenge of her job, Hernandez said, is making sure to not take her work life home with her.

“It’s hard not to get attached to some of the children,” Hernandez said. “They start talking about their home life or about the places they’ve never been to and it is hard to not just take them on a vacation or get too attached. Teachers want to give their students everything, but we have to make sure when to draw the line.”

Hernandez said that she is looking forward to becoming more involved and a part of the Andalusia community.

“I have lived here for five years,” Hernandez said. “But I want to get a little more involved in the community and contribute to the community.”

Hernandez said that the community has accepted her since she moved here, but always takes the chance to educate them when she can.

“People always have to guess or always say ‘Oh you’re not from around here are you?’ and I always have to educate them and tell them that I am actually from Texas and that my culture is from Mexico.”

Outside of the classroom, Hernandez loves to be outdoors, hiking with her family.

Her husband, Jaime Hernandez, works for the Conecuh National Forest. They have been married for seven years and they have three children with one on the way.