Home | Ketchikan | Alaska | Sports | Waterfront | Business | Education | Religion | Scene
Classifieds | Place a class ad | PDF Edition | Home Delivery

The little things we do have big impacts. K.J.

We can’t believe it’s already mid-December.

Arlene Wanda Nelson, 77, died Dec. 11, 2018, in Ketchikan. She was born Arlene Wanda Charles on Oct. 29, 1941, in Ketchikan.
Sam Hernandez PE teacher at Pt. Higgins
Sam Hernandez

Daily News Staff Writer

For the past few months, the Daily News has been working with the Ketchikan School District on developing a staff spotlight for the education page. The goal of this section is to share a bit about the staff members at all of the schools periodically with the community.

The people featured in this section will be nominated by the school principal. One of the first nominations came from Point Higgins Elementary School Principal Tony Sines, who nominated physical education teacher Sam Hernandez.

Sines nominated Hernandez because the physical education teacher is involved in a number of after-school activities and is a dedicated teacher who spends countless hours working with and promoting lifelong learning with the students.

The Daily News caught up with Hernandez on Friday afternoon.


Sam Hernandez, who has been a teacher for 19 years, is involved with quite a bit at Point Higgins. He  has a running club, a mileage club, a jump rope club, hosts a girls volleyball camp, teaches archery classes, and has been teaching conversational Spanish after school in the fall for the past two years.

    Before coming to Alaska, Hernandez was a physical education teacher in Florida for eight years at the elementary level before he was a coach and ESL teacher at a high school Florida. Hernandez taught at the high school for five years, took a break and went back to teaching in 1990.

He says he promotes lifelong learning by helping students develop athletic skills early. When he was coaching high school sports, he noticed that a lot of the girls who tried out didn’t make the team because they were lacking the proper skills.

So, he decided to go into elementary education to teach young ones how to become more confident and secure in their abilities.

“I saw this as an opportunity for me to try to get them engaged in learning those proper skills early,” Hernandez explained.

Not just one sport. He wants them to play all of them, so they have the basic rules and information about what it takes to do that particular sport. Hernandez said they can decide which one they want to pursue later in life.

And not just physical education. Hernandez integrates a lot of things they do in gym class with the curriculum in their other classes. He has them use a measuring tape to measure the size of the volleyball court and to see how high the basketball hoop is.

For him, just spending time with the students is enjoyable. Hernandez looks forward to them saying “good morning” to him when they get to school. He knows he’s making an impact in their lives when they approach him outside of school, talk about their lives with him — and give him a hug.

He tries to instill in them that physical education is a lifelong aspect of their lives. Hernandez promotes healthy living, and makes sure his students know that just because they move on to middle and high school — that doesn’t mean they can forget about exercising and eating right.

 “I really think that I am really influential, helping them, you know, in a positive aspect,” Hernandez said. “Being like a role model to them. I do my best to treat them with respect. If you want respect, you have to treat them with respect.”

It’s not a one-way street. Hernandez said the students have impacted him tremendously. He enjoys their curiosity and drive to try new sports, such as archery.

This year, his archery team placed second in the state competition, making it the fourth time the team has placed at the state level in the past four years. They’ve received third place twice and second place twice, and this year, they were eight points away from winning first place.

Hernandez doesn’t only promote these activities in school, but outside of school as well. He said he attends the students’ sporting events, such as gymnastics, softball and tee ball.

“My presence there, you know, they really get very happy when I’m standing there or sitting there with another parent and they’re doing their routine,” Hernandez said. “They’re always kind of looking to see, ‘Oh, Mr. Hernandez, you see what I did?’”

By doing that, he hopes to encourage them to participate in sports throughout their life. Hernandez believes the goal of sports is not necessarily to win, but to spend time and have fun with other people.

As if he didn’t have enough activities on his plate already, Hernandez hopes to implement another after-school activity in the future.

“One of the things I would like to do is to see if we can put like an after-school program, that maybe we can meet on weekends and we can go on hikes, and maybe we can help cleaning some of the local parks,” he said.