Teacher Feature - Mendez

This week we would like to introduce you to Jennifer Mendez, a Resource Teacher at Prairie View Elementary. Mrs. Mendez has spent the past six years teaching at Prairie View, first as a third grade teacher before transitioning to a special education teacher for third through fifth grade students this school year.

Mrs. Mendez is one of the most passionate and driven teachers you will find at USD 480 or anywhere. Her path to becoming a certified teacher is one of perseverance and a true testament to who she is as a person.

While raising her own children, she worked full time, and started and finished the daunting and tedious task of returning to school to finish her teaching degree. She is a lifelong learner as she is now working towards a masters degree in special education while she continues to raise a family and serve her students day in and day out.

She found her passion for teaching while serving as a paraprofessional in 2012, she wasted no time going back to school to become a certified teacher. After that she spent a year in a sixth grade classroom at Seymour Rogers before finding her home at Prairie View.

Mrs. Mendez (left) poses with the special education paras that she shares a classroom with, Jacquelin Navarrete (center) and Becky Todd (right). Mrs. Mendez started as a special education para with USD 480 in 2012.

“I started working for USD 480 as a special education paraprofessional in 2012 and fell in love with teaching and my students,” Mendez said. “My supervising teachers at the time encouraged me to go back to school to pursue teaching and I enrolled the following semester at SCCC.”

After attending Seward County Community College, Mrs. Mendez finished her teaching degree through Newman University and was immediately hired as an advanced student teacher where she taught third grade in a dual language classroom at Prairie View.

“From her first day teaching as an advanced student teacher it was obvious, Mrs. Mendez was a naturally gifted teacher,” said Kendra Haskell, Prairie View Principal. “In the past six years, Mrs. Mendez has grown as a teacher and also into a strong leader in our building and our district. Not only has she grown into an outstanding teacher in the classroom in the past six years, she has also become a lead teacher.”

Spending the last 11 years in a classroom, Mrs. Mendez has learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful teacher and the importance of reaching each and every student in a way that best suits their needs. She is quick to share her knowledge and insight with anyone looking to become a better teacher.

“She has a great relationship with the staff in our building,” said Larry Moore, Assistant Principal at Prairie View. “She provides resources and ideas to the newer teachers. She has several years of experience and she is more than willing to share. Mrs. Mendez is a leader and respected teacher in our school.”

Beyond the staff in her building, Mrs. Mendez is also willing to help those outside of her building looking to gain a better understanding of the teaching profession.

“She has been a model teacher for others in our building as well as the community,” Haskell said. “She opens her classroom to co-workers to come observe as well as SCCC students enrolled in education classes.”

When she isn’t helping her students or other educators, Mrs. Mendez has continued to learn herself. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in special education in addition to teaching and raising her family.

“My ‘why’ for teaching has always been the students,” Mendez said. “I love to help them reach their goals and work with them to find answers and solutions. They really push me to always want to be the best version of myself when I am teaching them.”

Her passion and commitment to being the best teacher she can be for her students is evident in everything she does and how she manages her classroom.

“When you walk into her classroom, you can always see students engaged in learning through small groups, cooperative learning, individualized instruction, and incorporating technology,” Haskell said. “Mrs. Mendez is an incredibly innovative teacher, she is always looking for new and engaging ways to provide her students with dual language instruction. Her willingness to learn and implement new strategies in her room is contagious throughout the school. ”

Mrs. Mendez works with a small group of students on their vocabulary words while wearing her famous and infectious smile, as always.

“Mrs. Mendez is truly a reflective educator,” Moore said. “She is always looking for ways to improve by asking questions, collaborating with other grade level teachers, and searching for new engaging activities to do with the students.”

Mrs. Mendez’s motivation and desire to be the best possible teacher  is infectious to anyone who is around her. She is constantly pushing herself and those around her, including her students, something that quickly becomes evident to every student who passes through her classroom or anyone observing, no matter how brief.

“Mrs. Mendez has been recognized by staff and parents for going above and beyond to personalize assignments for students,” Haskell said. “In her classroom, students strive to meet the high expectations she sets for each individual. Her ability to see each child individually and meet their needs is phenomenal.”

Her dedication to her students is perhaps not more evident than when the final bell rings at 3:20 p.m. each day and she is right there greeting kids at Prairie View’s BLAST after school program. 

“Mrs. Mendez is really flexible and willing to serve or help out wherever there's a need,” Moore said. “She has served on various building committees and serves on our Ed Elements leadership team. She also works in our BLAST after school program.”

Typically, her day will end two hours after that final bell rings, but that’s only if she doesn’t have any of her other additional responsibilities that day. The list of the committees and commitments she has involved herself in or been recommended for is a long one.

“When she is not at school, she can be found in the community supporting Prairie View students and her own children in Kids Inc, community, and school sporting events,” Haskell said. “In the past she has helped the district on the COVID reopening plan and the dual language research team. Mrs. Mendez is always willing to help our school and our district with a smile and a constant positive outlook!”  

Mrs. Mendez has been in the Liberal community since 2001 and says she absolutely loves it here and has always felt supported by USD 480 since she started her career here in 2012.

“Liberal has been my home since I graduated from high school and all of my kids were born here, so I love this community,” Mendez said. “I have worked my way up in this district starting as a para, then a substitute teacher, an interim teacher, and now I am a certified teacher working on my masters degree in special education. It's been a long journey but I have always felt supported in this district.”

Her unyielding passion for education can put a tremendous amount of pressure on herself, but she credits the students for her unwavering motivation.

“The students motivate me the most,” Mendez said. “I love coming to school and hearing about whatever it is they want to share with me. I love having a personal relationship that I build with all of my students. I also love the ‘ah ha’ moments when a student has been struggling on a concept and they figured it out.”

Beyond her students she finds motivation in her own children and being the absolute best role model for them as she helps them navigate through their own lives. Instead of just telling them of the possibilities available to them, she shows them with her actions.

“Another thing that motivates me is my own children,” Mendez said. “I strive to be a role model for them. I’ve pushed through so many barriers in my life to get this far and I want them to see they can do it too.”

Even though she doesn’t do all the things she does for the recognition, her dedication and efforts were recognized by those around her last year when she was chosen as the Prairie View Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Mendez (center left) poses with Kendra Haskell, Prairie View Principal (left); Lana Evans, Assistant Superintendent (center right); Larry Moore, Prairie View Assistant Principal (far right), after being named Prairie View Teacher of the Year this past October.

“I am truly honored to be recognized as Prairie View Teacher of the Year,” Mendez said. “It's amazing to know people would think of me for this award.  I am very blessed to have the support of my administration and my co-workers because they have helped and encouraged me in everything.”

Mrs. Mendez is quick to offer praise and credit to those around her who continue to make her journey as an educator a successful one, but whether she is aware of it or not, she has a profound impact on everyone who has the privilege of knowing her.

“Mrs. Mendez is always smiling and sharing joy with students and other staff members. She brings out the best in students even when they are having a difficult day. Her sweet spirit and gentle words of encouragement help students work through any problem. She is a wonderful educator, leader, and mentor,” Haskell concluded.

Her passion is contagious, her students adore her, her peers admire her, and her administrators are proud to have her at Prairie View. USD 480 and Liberal is fortunate to have such a dedicated and driven educator working with our students each and every day, she makes our students and community a better place to live.