The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about schools and how they serve their communities but for Holly Hernandez, the historic event hasn’t changed her focus or determination to serve kids.
The kitchen manager at Chief Joseph Middle School has worked non-stop to make sure every student who needed a meal could get one when schools were closed for in-person learning and after students returned to classrooms. She looked after her staff as well, going so far as to change work sites herself to be sure other school kitchens had the support they needed. And she always has a smile on behind her mask and is looking for ways to keep people’s spirits up.
Mrs. Hernandez’s efforts now and throughout her time in Richland schools are why she is Richland School District’s nominee for the state’s Classified School Employee of the Year award.
“Holly is a natural leader, she is someone other schools reach out to and she works hard to bring us all together,” says Dawn Trumbull, the district’s Director of Nutrition Services.
The Classified School Employee of the Year program recognizes classified employees from each of Washington's educational service districts every year. Celebrated staff members are chosen for their exceptional work; the respect and admiration they have received from their community; their commitment to professional growth and deepening connections between schools and communities; their collaborative approach to creating positive and successful school cultures and dedication to student success.
Mrs. Hernandez began working in school kitchens in 2005 and joined the district in the 2014-15 school year at Lewis & Clark Elementary. She was part of the nutrition services teams at Jefferson and Tapteal elementary schools before taking over the kitchen at Chief Joseph in the 2017-18 school year.
Throughout her tenure she’s been known as a tireless and dedicated worker who has played a key role in supporting not just her own kitchen but others across the district. She has built strong relationships with the students at the schools she serves, ensuring that each one can get a meal. And she knows that silliness has its place, too, such as working to make meal distribution during the pandemic fun with costumed staff members and laughs.
Mrs. Hernandez’s nomination will first be considered for a regional award with other classified staff from ESD 123. If selected, she would then be considered for state-level recognition.