By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
A2 STEAM Principal Meg Fenech says teaching assistant Juan Hernandez is a great asset to the A2 STEAM team.
“He has deftly, thoughtfully, and happily supported a wide range of learners from first graders through eighth graders,” she says. “His skill set, flexibility, ability to implement accommodations, and desire to collaborate with our SISS team have led to some real breakthroughs with students.”
She says that Hernandez’s gift for building rapport and relationships can also be seen outside the school day when he’s coaching the school’s soccer and basketball teams.
Hernandez grew up in Kansas and has also lived in Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. A graduate of Great Bend High School in Great Bend, Kansas, he played soccer for Dodge City Community College and McPherson College, both in Kansas. He has been a sports coordinator for a YMCA in Ohio, has worked in the restaurant industry, and been a certified personal trainer.
In addition to his job as a teaching assistant at A2 STEAM, Hernandez also coaches the 7th and 8th-grade soccer and basketball teams and coaches his son’s Rec & Ed basketball and soccer teams.
Hernandez lives in Ann Arbor with his two children, Karys, 9, and Kai, 7. Hobbies include playing in a volleyball league, golfing, and traveling.
Why did you decide to become a teaching assistant?
Because I have a kid with special needs and I wanted to give back to others.
Describe an average workday.
An average workday includes preparing the student I’m working with what their day will look like, our schedule, expectations, and I plan out their sensory and reward breaks for the day.
When you tell people you’re a teaching assistant, do they know what that means? Or do you call yourself a parapro? Teacher’s aide?
I usually say I am an aide for students with special needs or explain that I work one-on-one with one particular student.
When you recall your first year of being a teaching assistant, what memories stand out?
One of the biggest memories was realizing how innovative the educational system has become since I attended school; especially with STEAM’s approach to project-based learning.
What advice would you give to a first-year teaching assistant?
To practice a lot of patience and understanding because every day is different. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
For the kid I’m working with to tell me I’m making a difference.
Do you feel the respect teachers at A2 STEAM have for you?
Yes, they have all been very welcoming and appreciative.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching?
It takes a village.
Apps you can’t live without:
If you could know the definitive answer to any one question, what would that question be?
“When am I going to die?”
Would you really want to know the answer? Why? Yes, it would change my daily activities. If life was short, I would speed up my bucket list.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Seeing these kids excel and become successful and start opening up to you.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teaching assistant?
That it’s one of the most important jobs in education.
How do you recharge?
Coffee and sleep.
How do you spend your summers?
Working at my second job at a local restaurant, and travelling.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
How many kids I’m able to interact with. Getting to see my kids grow.