World History Teacher – Zudannie Núñez-Hernandez

Tell us about your educational background. How did you end up becoming a Teacher?

I received my Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Florida in the Fall of 2001 and while waiting to go to law school in California I began substitute teaching at a local middle school in Miami and I was captivated by the kids! It made me change career paths and in short I was hired by 4th largest school district shortly after and began pursuing my Masters in Education which I completed in the fall of 2005 at the University of Miami. 14 years later and I am still here doing what I love!

What is your current educational career choice? Where do you teach and which grade/subject?

Zudannie-Nu_C3_B1ez-Hernandez-HS-2014-e14478949092_6a5241df82d148b9a66dc95205c34716I am currently a 9th grade World History Educator at Design and Architecture Senior High, a Nationally Recognized High School in Miami’s Design District. I teach at a unique school where my students are not only taking academically challenging courses but they are engaged in courses with instructors whose previous career were in Architecture, Industrial Design, Film. Fashion Design or Graphic Design and they get to have one-on-one training to help them in their pursuit to study these fields at art and design colleges and universities around the globe. In an effort to make them informed global citizen that can successfully engage in collaboration with others I teach leadership skills through LEAD2FEED Student Leadership Program which is focused on critical thinking and problem solving skill acquisition while demonstrating originality and inventiveness in their work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas.

How many hours do you work each week? Can you take us through what a normal day looks like for you?

Each work week consists of 8 hour school days where 6.5 are spent delivering instruction. In this field though your work comes with you and so there is no time where work is truly finished. There is always some new ideas, techniques and practices out there to learn about. Students are unique from year to year so you engage with them in different ways and tailor things to suit them coupled with planning and grading and preparing, never ending but oh so rewarding.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world. I remind myself of these reasons, and all the others, quite often, because teaching kids, and young adults, is hard – really, really hard but in the end it is all worth it.

What characteristics do you think allow someone to thrive in this career?

The great teachers work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. Although this list is certainly not all-inclusive, I have narrowed down the many characteristics of a great teacher to those I have found to be the most essential, regardless of the age of the learner: A great teacher respects their students, is flexible, creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom, is warm, accessible, enthusiastic, approachable and caring, sets high expectations for all students, is a life-long learner fearless about incorporating new things into their teaching, is a skilled leader focused on shared decision-making and teamwork, as well as on community building but most important a great teacher is resilient, no matter what obstacle they are presented with they find a way!

What gets you excited about your job and why?

I get to LEAD. I get to INSPIRE! What job in the world pays you to use your imagination and ingenuity to bring history alive in ways students will always remember? This is perhaps the most captivating thing about my career that I get a chance to go way beyond teaching rote facts and share my knowledge with a captivated audience. I get to instantly impact students by helping them develop skills they need to compete in a challenging global market. Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program is a team-based, service-learning program that fosters teamwork in an effort to help students learn and develop key leadership skills as they take action to solve ie: real-life hunger issues or any need in their community. They put their leadership skills, acquired through these lessons into action in their communities   They are challenged to move toward a solution to curb local hunger and they are motivated to step up and step out as leaders. Parents and colleagues appreciate my work as they see students using these skills in daily life and changing the world they live in RIGHT NOW! I have the best job in the world!

On a scale from 1 – 10, how hard was it to get to where you are now? Was it worth the journey?

Teaching is hard but it is worth it. It is worth the unspoken honor of being on the front lines of society’s intellectual revolution, being smart enough, strong enough, resilient enough, and patient enough to bare the blizzard of blame and support-less expectations of society. It is worth the honor of rising to the occasion of education in the 21st century. It is worth earning that unpaid time off from pushing your talents to their peak—understanding levels of exhaustion and work ethic beyond most jobs. It is worth the confidence to not need someone else’s understanding to validate how hard you work.

What is one thing would you like to see changed in your field?

The one thing I would like to see changed in my field is testing! Acquisition of knowledge should far supersede one’s ability to perform on a test. Testing has become the cornerstone of education as politicians are making decisions about what should go on in a classroom without clearly thinking that we deal with humans not with machines who should be allowed to love to learn! Not learn simply to be tested!

What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?

At the end of my career, I want to have influenced individuals to make history, to serve others whom can do nothing for them in return…. If I have accomplished this for any individual I have taught, then I would have succeeded at my life’s work.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

For many people, their work is a means to an end. They work for a paycheck in order to live their lives. But those called to teach have a true vocation. To those with whom you interact most during your day of teaching – the students – you are not an employee but a friend, a mentor and a guide to the world. A teacher makes a difference in the world by enabling each of his or her students to fully maximize their talents, imagination, skills and character, if you have that, then GO the classroom is your oyster! Teach, inspire, lead …it is a calling and if you have been called answer….

We are all in a life-long search for self. “Who am I? ” “What is my purpose on this earth?” These are questions which constantly plague us. As a teacher of values, I find that my answers to these questions are provided through exposing my students to philosophies which will aid them in finding their own answers to these questions. In short, I am so that they will be.

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