Kim Mendez said she loves that there is never a dull moment in her job.
This year’s Aynor High School Teacher of the Year, she has taught in the school’s moderate to severe special education class for the past six years.
“There’s a lot of joy and success found in the little things,” Mendez said.
She said she was surprised by the announcement that she’d won the honor when the principal and other members of the staff came into her room to give her a plant.
“The students applauded and cheered,” she said. “It’s always wonderful to be acknowledged by your peers.”
She said she hopes she will represent the school well.
Mendez graduated from East Carolina University in North Carolina and moved to Horry County just before finding her first job at North Myrtle Beach High School. She moved on to work at the district level with students with autism, and also at Black Water Middle School for eight years before coming to AHS.
She said she loves seeing her students’ levels of independence grow in her class of ten students.
“There are lots of smiles when they get it,” she said.
Her husband Mark Mendez works at the same school directing the band, but she said they actually seldom run into each other at school.
“We don’t even travel together,” she laughed, saying his busy times are different than hers, and she works in the front corner of the school while he works in the back corner.
They have two boys, ages 12 and 6, and she said that when they have free time, much of it is spent as “home bodies.”
“We like to do projects around the house, and fixing up the yard,” Mendez said.
She likes to run for leisure when she can, and stays busy because both of her children play sports, instruments and sometimes travel for those activities.
Principal Michael McCracken said Mendez is “one of the best teachers you’ll ever meet.”
“She does not allow a disability to define a child. She pushes her students to be the best they can be and loves them as if they were her own children. The level of rigor and expectation she sets for her students is amazing. Many people would argue not to “push” these kids too hard because of their disability, but Kim will not let their disability determine if they succeed,” McCracken said. “She believes in the children. If you walk in her room on any given day, you will see students engaged in work and learning real-world skills. She wants her students to be ready for life when they leave her classroom. I am so proud of her.”