TWINSBURG — As an educator dedicated to social change, R.B. Chamberlin Middle School English teacher Lynnette Jimenez has broken barriers across borders to increase educational opportunities for students in poverty.

Because of her commitment to her students in Twinsburg and to those a world away in El Salvador, the National Education Association has bestowed upon her its highest honor — the George I. Sanchez Award.

"The human and civil rights champions we honor tonight are the epitome of the fierce urgency of now that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

"Through their deeds and actions, they have demonstrated remarkable courage and conviction to stand up for racial and social justice. They have shown an unrelenting resolve and ferocity to make a real difference for public education, students, and our nation’s future.

"They are shining examples of social justice activism, fighting against injustices every day, and making sure that our great nation lives up to its promise."

"I want to thank the National Education Association for recognizing me for this very prestigious award," said Jimenez. "The George I. Sanchez Memorial Award means more to me than you will ever know, because it not only recognizes the work that I have done, but it also recognizes the accomplishments of those who have come before me."

NEA recognized the work of 12 outstanding social justice heroes at its 2018 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards July 1 in Minneapolis. The merger of the NEA and American Teachers Association in 1966 produced the annual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards.

Jimenez was among the individuals and organizations, including First Lady Michelle Obama and Know Your Rights Camp founded by NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick, that the NEA recognized for continuing the quest for human and civil rights in America.

Since the merger, NEA has recognized and honored educators, individuals, community partners, and organizations that are advancing the mantle for human and civil rights.

"I was delighted to hear the great news that Lynnette has been awarded the George I. Sanchez Award," said Twinsburg Superintendent Kathryn Powers. "I have had the great pleasure of observing her teach. She is an excellent teacher who challenges her students to reach their potential and to succeed.

Powers says Jimenez takes the time to "truly understand the needs of her students, both through the analysis of student performance data as well as through the day-to-day interactions she fosters with them."

"It is not a surprise to know that Mrs. Jimenez is also committed to working with students in Central America where she travels over the summers to support students with their educational needs. She is an advocate for all students and she strives to make a difference in their lives. I am very proud of her, and I am truly thankful that she is an educator in the Twinsburg schools."

R.B. Chamberlin Middle School Principal James Ries also praised Jimenez. 

"She is respected by our staff, who look to her for leadership and guidance," Ries said. "As a teacher, she is loved by her students, who achieve at the highest levels. As a professional, she is dedicated, keeping up with current practice and spending time in Central America each summer to develop schools in impoverished areas. She is a true treasure for Twinsburg schools."

On a recent trip to El Salvador, Jimenez said she committed to developing an adult and child literacy program to break the cycle of poverty. Working with local charity and religious organizations in Ohio, she established Colegio Catòlico Misioneros De Cleveland in Teopaque, El Salvador.

She raised money for the school through writing grants, hosting fundraisers, collecting donations and buying supplies out of her own pocket.

She wanted to ensure the school had the resources to support the holistic role of the teacher, learn what students and their teachers need, how to motivate them, and most importantly, how to build a support system to address ongoing problems like malnutrition and gang violence.

From curriculum planning to continuing education, Jimenez continues to support the principal and her staff at the elementary school.

For the last several summers, to provide cross-cultural learning opportunities, she has collaborated with former Twinsburg students interested in creating bilingual literacy opportunities for the children of El Salvador.

She helps her students design lesson plans, and implement character building activities, extracurricular games and community awareness workshops that help them better understand the culture and build relationships on an international level through an adaptive and unique learning experience.