Head Start teacher helps in building good foundation

Active Times, March 2009

By: CHABELLA GUZMAN, Staff Reporter

Forty years after beginning as a Head Start teacher, Cora Hernandez is still devoted to helping children reach their potential.

“I have always enjoyed working with children,” she said. “I even volunteered at the grade schools when I was in high school.”

Seeing the children everyday reminds Hernandez of herself when she was young, she said.

“There were eight children in our family. My older brother, Ben, inspired me to go to school and to achieve, he would walk to school on the coldest days, even with his ears freezing,” she said. “I always thought if he could do it, so could I.”

Hernandez was the first in her family to graduate high school and attend college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When she returned to the valley, she worked in the summer Head Start program in Scottsbluff a couple of summers before getting hired on fulltime at the Gering Head Start.

Working as a Head Start teacher, Hernandez is constantly learning, from training that is offered and from just being a teacher.

“So much has changed from when I started,” she said. “We involve the parents more now to set realistic goals for their children and become more involved with them.”

Hernandez has had parents come in and expect their children to be writing their names by three years old. That is when her and the other teachers have to remind the parents that children need to progress in steps.

“Children will learn to scribble by doing circles and lines and then they will learn to move onto writing,” she said. “We too have guidelines we follow from the ‘No child left behind’ program.”

For pre-kindergarten, children should be able to recognize 10 letters, all their colors, count to 20 and recognize most shapes.

“Children are always ready to learn, that never changes,” she said.

The children that provide more of a challenge are the ones that Hernandez takes special interest in.

“I have never had a child I couldn’t deal with. They may be difficult, but most have made it and are now in high school getting ready to graduate or even in college,” she said.

The children learn at Head Start to address their teachers by Mrs. or Miss and they learn they have choices and responsibilities they need to participate in. Hernandez believes that having rules and guidelines can help a child learn.

 “Part of a child’s transition from Head Start to kindergarten is learning social skills that will assist them in the future,” she said.

Hernandez is proud that her teaching has made a difference with some children. She loves her job and it shows in her past students that have gone onto graduate high school and even college.

“My mentor told me once that if you give a child a good foundation, even after they leave you, they will build on it,” she said. “That is what I try to do for all my students.”

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