The inspiration Cristina Hernández and her five siblings received to achieve higher education stemmed from her mother, a woman who has never attended school.
Hernández, principal of Centerville Elementary School in the Sanger Unified School District, received one of three administrator of the year awards from the Fresno chapter of the Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) on May 12.
The other administrators honored by AMAE are Sutter Middle School (Fowler) assistant principal Patricia Patiño-Madrón, and, Francisco Romo, academic services director for the Golden Plains Unified School District.
Hernández was born in Cotija, Michoacán, México, and was brought to the United States as a youngster by her parents, Gilberto and Martha Hernández. Her parents worked in the fields to support the hopes and necessities of the family.
Martha Hernández, 56, no longer needs to work the fields. She’s a proud grandmother and babysitter to her daughter’s children.
She was the inspiration, said Cristina, age 33, the middle child, for herself and all her siblings to achieve a college education.
Cristina graduated from Fresno State in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in multiple subject teaching and educational leadership.
“My mom never got to go to school, no kindergarten. She gave us the opportunity she didn’t have,” said Cristina.
Cristina’s sister Patricia Hernández is a fourth-grade teacher, and brother Gilberto Hernández, Jr. is a substitute teacher, both in the Fresno Unified School District. Another brother, Eduardo Hernández, is a middle-school teacher in the San José area.
Cristina’s other siblings – Leticia Hernández attended culinary school and owns Cherry Blossom Cafe in downtown Fresno; Nelson Hernández earned a degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz and is a university counselor – have also used education to improve their lives.
“She’s always just been proud. She always knew we can do it,” said Cristina.
Formerly an elementary teacher at Kerman and Tranquillity in the Golden Plains Unified District, Cristina is in her third year at Centerville.
She balances motherhood and the education of nearly 300 children at Centerville Elementary. She and her husband, Joshua Bravo, have three children: Noah, 9, Nicolás, 6, and Mateo, 4.
“It’s a wonderful recognition for our district and the work that we do,” said Cristina of the recognition award.
She dedicated the award to her mother, who attended the awards ceremony.
“It was her Mother’s Day gift.”
Education runs in Patiño-Madrón’s blood. Her father, the late Phil Patiño (Fresno Unified named the Patiño School of Entrepreneurship after him), has always pushed education.
She and two siblings are in education; the other three are in law.
“I love what I do,” said Patiño-Madrón, who said her father was always looking for ways to make the AMAE Day of the Teacher dinner better. “The staff, I consider to be family.”
Patiño-Madrón, who has worked at the Fowler district for 21 years, makes student success and growth a top priority. She has created a scholarship fund to help Fowler High graduates.
Patiño-Madrón also launched service learning projects so that students can serve their community and learn leadership skills.
“Education is the most important thing that you have that will get you to where you want to get to,” said Patiño-Madrón.
In the district, she is known for mentoring students and establishing a Portfolio Day at her school.
“Her rapport with students, parents, community members and colleagues is outstanding and continues to be a role model for her colleagues and students,” said her nomination letter.
The Stanislaus State graduate taught fifth and sixth grade in the Delhi Unified School District for 16 years before deciding to go into administration. Romo, a father of two, served as associate principal at Harmony Elementary School (2007-11) and later as coordinator of English Learner Services at the Merced County Office of Education (2011-15).
He drives three hours total daily to get to work the last two years to Golden Plains Unified.
His nominating letter noted that Romo has been instrumental in supporting greater access to content learning at any grade level or subject area.
“He works with all staff to analyze the strengths and areas of growth, creates strong positive relationships and supports teachers in providing instruction that is relevant and rigorous where students show the results we plan for with a strong foundation on literacy across the school day in all subjects,” the nominator noted.
Romo, who humorously pointed out that he is the favorite of his in-laws, has two children.
He quoted NCAA basketball coach Jimmy Valvano about the three essentials of life: “No. 1 is laugh. No. 2 is think and spend some time in thought. No. 3, you should have your emotions drive you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
Vida en el Valle editor Juan Esparza Loera contributed to this report.