Teachers, to most students, are just that: teachers. Our relationship with Coach Brandon Hernandez is much more - as a fellow teacher put it, “he is everything you want in a friend.” He is always willing to listen to students and give advice, whether about schoolwork or personal matters. One student even said, “You leave every conversation with him feeling inspired.”

Mr. Hernandez consistently works for his students. Before coming to Olathe Northwest (ONW), he taught at Lawrence Free State. There, he started FIRST Team 5119 while implementing daily lesson plans for several math courses. Under Mr. Hernandez’ leadership and dedication, FRC Team 5119 thrived. Working with no previous FIRST experience or school stipend, his commitment was unwavering, helping them to win the Highest Rookie Seed Award at their first competition. His reputation of devotion and exceptional teaching was noticed and led to an invitation to teach at ONW.

Upon starting at ONW, Mr. H’s skills were immediately tested. Approached by many, he was asked to coach FRC Team 1710 and implement 8 new FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams into the junior year curriculum. With seemingly no effort, he took on these challenges. Hernandez’ job was done so well that, as one student put it, “you would think he had been here for years.” He successfully introduced RobotC and other FTC concepts to nearly 90 students despite his own inexperience with the program. His dedication and strong will to succeed kept him at school for many late nights, assisting students with everything from robot construction to presentation practice, but the results showed the fruits of his labor. 

After FTC season ended, work with FRC Team 1710 began. The influx of new ideas and positive mentality Coach Hernandez brought reinvigorated the team, making it stronger and better than before. Quickly, he established a personal connection with everyone. He had valuable advice to offer in every area. Once again, he had many late nights at the school spent supervising and assisting the team. More than once, he brought his dog to meetings to make sure she wasn’t on her own for too long.

It takes a special type of person to coach an FRC or FTC team. The time commitment required for either is immense. Coach Hernandez leads an FRC team and eight FTC teams. The combination of his skills, positive attitude, and drive for success is unique. He selflessly put his life on hold to help students pursue their goals and discover their passions. In his words, “What I get out of FIRST is seeing what the students get out of it.”

Mr. Hernandez is nothing short of an inspiration. In his single year at ONW and part of FRC Team 1710, he became a role model for those around him. As an alumni put it, “he’s someone you aspire to be when you grow up.” With him, we can see that our success is just beginning. With hope and excitement for the future, FIRST Team 1710 proudly nominates Brandon Hernandez for the 2016 Woodie Flowers Award.