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Ahmad Hernandez: Master Teacher

Passion, creativity, and unstoppable energy have placed Ahmad exactly where he needs to be–teaching in a personalized one-on-one teaching environment where he can nurture students with a genuine appreciation for them as individuals.

master_teacherHFM: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

AH: I am 40 years old. I’ve been married for almost 4 years, and we have a 14 year-old black lab mix named Abby.

HFM: Where do you guys live?

AH: My wife and I moved to Stafford last year. We really enjoy the diversity of the Sugar Land area, especially the different types of Indian, Asian, and Mediterranean restaurants around town.

HFM: How long have you been an English teacher?

AH: I have taught middle and high-school English for about 2 years. I also teach Spanish, Geometry and Algebra at Fusion Academy Sugar Land. Before Fusion, I taught Art at Amigos Por Vida/Friends For Life Charter School in Houston for four years.

HFM: What brought you to Fusion Academy?

AH: I wasn’t happy with teaching at a public school. I was still passionate about teaching, but I was burnt out. An old friend from middle school was Master Teacher at Fusion Academy – Dallas. She posted on Facebook that there were open positions at the Houston Galleria campus. I had seen her post about Fusion many times before, so I was curious about the school. After visiting the website and talking to her, I decided to make the leap and apply for a teaching position. I was impressed with everything about the school, from the one-to-one teaching model to the music and art studios. And I could tell that everyone on staff was genuinely excited to work at Fusion.

HFM: Fusion Academy promotes a unique, personalized learning environment. Tell us about this approach to teaching and why it’s effective.

AH: Most students work well in a traditional public or private school, but some students don’t do well for a myriad of reasons. Students may get bored with the pace of a regular class, have a learning difference and require more time or accommodations in order to succeed, or may need someone to help them navigate a difficult emotional or social situation. Most teachers don’t have the time or resources to help.

At Fusion Academy, we provide a classroom for these students where they can work one-on-one with a teacher. Our teachers individualize the class sessions to meet our students where they are academically. Teachers can speed up the lessons when a student masters a concept quickly, and they can adapt the lessons to meet the needs of each student. Our teachers also serve as mentors, so we can really get to know our students’ hopes and frustrations, and make genuine connections with them.

HFM: I understand you incorporate music and dance into your classes in order to teach procedural writing. What is procedural writing and how do these techniques facilitate teaching it?

AH: Procedural writing is any type of writing that gives instructions or directions. Cookbooks are great examples of procedural writing, and so are instruction manuals and any piece of writing that begins with “How to.”

One of my students loves to dance, so she is a kinesthetic learner. I wanted to connect the lesson with something that she liked to do. I told her at the beginning of class that line dances have a lot in common with procedural writing. If you want to learn how to dance the Cha Cha Slide, for example, you listen to the singer and follow the step-by-step instructions. We learned a line dance by following the instructions in the song.
I asked her to come up with her own line dance. After she taught me her line dance, I asked her to write it down so anyone could learn it. I went over sequence words like, “first,” “then,” “after that,” and “next,” so she could put the steps in the right order. I also told her to draw pictures of each step to activate her visual learning. She taught me using her writing, and I said that now anyone that can read English can learn her dance.

HFM: I’ve seen some of your YouTube videos, and it’s clear you are a big believer in engaging students to spice up classroom lessons. Can you share some tips with our teacher and parent readers for how they can make their lessons more engaging and fun?

AH: Get to know your students—what they like to do and how they learn best. Figure out a way to “hook” the students by connecting the lesson to something they know or like. And remember that most people can stay focused for a few minutes at a time. Break up the learning and get students up, and moving.

HFM: To what do you attribute your passion for teaching?

AH: I have had so many great teachers throughout my life. I remember my elementary-school Music teacher playing “The Dukes of Hazard” theme song on his guitar during lessons. My sixth-grade English teacher sang “The Adverb Family” to the tune of “The Addams Family,” and we gave examples of adverbs as we snapped our fingers to the song. My high school Physics teacher had me rewrite lyrics to Christmas songs to cover lab safety. These teachers taught me that creativity is a critical component to learning. And that learning should bring joy and wonder.

HFM: What occupation would you pursue if you weren’t a teacher?

AH: I’ve been an actor, director, and non-profit administrator in my previous careers, so I consider myself to be “Ahmad version 3.0” right now. If I weren’t teaching today, I would probably want to be a voice-over actor. That job has all of the fun of acting, and you can do it in your pajamas!

HFM: School today is more competitive and challenging than ever. What advice do you have for students who might be struggling and feeling like they’re just not smart enough to make it?

AH: You are not alone. We have all doubted our abilities at some point in life. And we have all failed in some way. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t compare yourself to someone else. Focus on how much YOU have learned; how much YOU have grown.

HFM: What advice do you have for their parents?

AH: A child’s mental well-being is just as important as his or her grades. It may even be more important, because if a child doesn’t feel safe, valued and loved, he or she will not be able to achieve.

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