This month’s staff spotlight honors Luisa Mendez. Luisa has been with Hershey Montessori School since 2008. She started at Hershey as the Spanish teacher and Library coordinator. She then went on to earn her AMI diploma in Denver, Colorado. Luisa now works as a Young Child Community guide where she spends her days guiding and supporting young children in their development as well as supporting their parents in their journey of parenting.
Hi Luisa, do you have a nickname?
My family calls me by my middle name; Yanina and Lu. 🙂
Tell us what you do at Hershey that is unique to you.
This is really hard to answer! I guess that would be that I speak Spanish with the children and teach them songs in Spanish.
That is unique! I bet the children love it. What is your favorite part of your work at Hershey?
My favorite part is seeing how much the children change in such a short period of time. To see them discover the world through the material in the environment; to build relationships with their peers and the adults that support them; to be able to support them in developing the joy for work from a very young age. I love having fun with them by dancing and singing, going on our daily morning walks, and connecting with nature.
Tell us about your family.
I am married to Patrick Lauriano. Patrick was born in Brazil. We met when I started working at his family restaurant while going to college. We have two daughters, Gabi and Isa, and they are both at Hershey’s Huntsburg campus. Gabi is 16 and is in her 10th year, and Isa is 12 in her 7th year. We also have a cat named Nalo.
Where are you from?
I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States with my mom and three sisters when I was 12 years old. I grew up on the west side of Cleveland and moved to Painesville to go to Lake Erie College. I have been living there ever since.
What did you do before coming to Hershey?
I was a Spanish teacher at another school and worked as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant.
What brought you to Hershey?
I came to interview for the Spanish position and felt so connected with the Montessori approach. I knew then that I wanted my daughter, Gabi (that was 2 at that time) to grow up with these principles.
So you were immediately drawn to Montessori?
Yes, during the interview, I was invited to observe a Children’s House community. I instantly fell in love with the joy I saw in the classrooms. The concentration and the collaboration between the children — all the grace and courtesy that happened during my observation was mind-blowing. I knew then that I wanted this way of life for all my children.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Do you have a favorite Hershey memory?
When I was the Spanish teacher, I used to come in quietly into each room. I used to greet every child that joined my lessons by shaking their hands and saying good morning in Spanish, “Buenos Dias.” I remember there was a child that used to always say and even share with all her friends, “Buenos Dias is here, Buenos Dias is here!” when I entered the classroom. She thought Buenos Dias was my name.
That is precious! Tell us where your love to go.
The beach is for sure my favorite place in the world. I love to visit the Dominican Republic every time I can and share my culture with my girls. The ocean and the sand have powerful ways of taking all my worries away, and bring me so much peace.
What is your favorite thing to do?
I love dancing to all types of music, but especially Latin music. I love cooking and sharing the food I make with others. I also love deep cleaning, especially the kitchen!
What is a little known fact about you?
Oh my! What is your favorite book?
Holes by Louis Sachar.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Be the change you want in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi.
Who has made the biggest impact in your life and what does that impact look like?
My mom has made the biggest impact in my life. When we were growing up, she had to work so hard to provide for me and my sister. She instilled in me the value of working hard for our dreams.
How would your friends and family describe you and how would you describe yourself?
My closest friends would probably describe me as someone who is kind and always willing to lend a helping hand to those that need my help, that I probably put others before myself — and that I take too much on but somehow manage to accomplish most of those things and that I don’t know how to say no.
I would describe myself as someone who loves supporting and helping others; as someone with positive hopes for future generations. I love being with my family and sharing special moments with them.
Tell us about your happiest moments.
Going on vacation with family, to travel with them and share all the wonderful things this earth has to offer.
What is your biggest life lesson you would like to share with others?
That we should always fight for our dreams with hard work and dedication; that we can be the difference and change in the world, but it must start with change in ourselves. There is nothing that kindness can’t make better.
So very true, Luisa. Thank you for sharing your time and your personal side of life with us. It is such a pleasure to get to know more about you. We truly appreciate what you bring to your classroom and are grateful for your presence and work in our community!