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From cleaning classrooms to teaching in them


Toni Hernandez believes in people. She truly wants to see people around her succeed.Toni with NEISD way sign

But to get there, she first had to believe in herself. And that belief is about to pay off in a big way, not only for her but for future generations of North East ISD students.

Hernandez had some hiccups when she was a teenager. She dropped out of high school in ninth grade. Without much of a formal education, she worked whatever jobs she could get. But one job got her back on the right path.

In 1993, Bobby Norwood hired her as a custodian at Montgomery Elementary School. She spent her days wiping down counters, vacuuming rugs and dusting. But she also soaked up whatever knowledge she could. By 1996, she was promoted to head custodian at Montgomery. 

Over the last 30 years, she’s worked at Jackson Middle School, Fox Run Elementary School and Larkspur Elementary School.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the education department, but I didn’t have a GED. My administration would see how hard I worked and how much I enjoyed interacting with the kids and tell me I should become a paraprofessional or an instructional assistant. But I was too embarrassed to tell them I didn’t have my GED.”

She turned that embarrassment into motivation. She started taking classes at the NEISD Adult Education Center, and after a few months of classes, she got her GED.

“I was the happiest person in the world. My mind was set. I wanted to help kids. I didn’t think I could do it. But I did.”

That GED helped her secure a position as an instructional assistant at Roosevelt High School. She also reached out to her former principal, Bobby Norwood, to write her a letter of recommendation.

“He told me, ‘I can do you one better; my son is the principal there now. I will give him a call.’”

Toni at graduationSo, her NEISD journey has come full circle.Now, she’s working for Bryan Norwood at Roosevelt as a substitute teacher.

She’s also going to school. She will soon graduate from Texas A&M San Antonio with the certifications she needs to teach full-time.

“I never thought I could do it, but the support I have gotten from the people here. Roosevelt Spanish teacher Ana Martinez tutors me and helps me. She always tells me I am going to be a great teacher. I want to stay here. I want to stay at Roosevelt. My kids graduated from here. I know this community. I know what these kids are going through. I went through a lot of the same experiences. But I did it. I am reaching my goal. Hopefully, I can help my future students see that anything is possible if they are willing to put in the work.”

Hernandez is reaching her goal of being a teacher #theNEISDway.

Evan Henson
posted on: 06/02/2023