Please Wait a Moment

2022-23 NSPRA Front-Runner: Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, APR

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. The annual distinction recognizes four members, each from a different NSPRA region.

Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, APR Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, APR 
Executive Administrator for Partnerships, Marketing and Communications
Region One Education Service Center  
Edinburg, Texas
NSPRA South Central Region

I believe school PR/communications is the pulse that keeps an organization going. When everything is running smoothly it helps highlight success. In times of crisis, it helps keep the ship afloat and all stakeholders aware of new developments. When there are silos or turmoil stirring it creates connections among colleagues, ensuring all are reminded of the organization’s mission and goals, and the power of collaboration.

My greatest school PR success was building connections among various groups to create student opportunities that assisted them in achieving their academic and life goals. I was never in the classroom, but through school PR I have helped make significant contributions that shaped student futures. Seeing their success brings me much joy and reminds me why I love what I do!

My greatest school PR challenge was the unknown elements of the recent world pandemic. Throughout my career, I have experienced many situations that were difficult to navigate, but one learns to work though them. Although each crisis is unique, there is a sort of sequence one follows. The months during and after the shutdown were unpredictable and provided me with a new perspective into human interactions, expectations and the incredible hard work of a communicator. We all came together to support each other and each day was never the same as the one before. A true life experience.

My favorite part of my job is building relationships. We are the connectors, the cheerleaders, the peacemakers. Helping bridge opportunities, create dialogue or share experiences among our stakeholders makes me happy and fulfills my mission.

The communication tool I use the most is social media. Talk about the greatest connector of all! I think back to a life before social media and it is almost surreal, even primitive. Now we have the power to share content throughout the world in a matter of seconds without waiting for a news outlet. We literally hold the power in our hands, and even though it is scary at times, the positive outweighs the negative.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, APR
Director of Communications
Oconee County Schools
Watkinsville, Ga.

Alma Mater:

B.A. - Mississippi State University; MPA - University of Georgia

I believe school PR/communications is what I was born to do! One of the biggest decisions a parent can make is where to send their child to school, and it’s an honor to share with our parents the engaging work that their children are doing under the guidance of world-class teachers and leaders. On any given day, in any given school, there are many stories to be told and I take that charge seriously. As school communicators played a key role in COVID-19 communications, storytelling was more important than ever – not only did I share information with parents about our protocols, but I also made over 80 visits to schools last year and told a variety of stories about how students were thriving with both in-person and distance learning options. I also worked with principals to determine best mitigation practices and helped make those pervasive, because positive action must be the foundation of what we are ultimately communicating. School public relations is incredibly complex and I love that each day brings a new challenge.

My greatest school PR success was completing 11 nationally-innovative school communication audits using a process of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. I am now in phase two of this project and am attending school council meetings to garner feedback from parents about school-level communication and how I can better support the work of their schools. One of the most significant findings is that as students take more ownership of their learning, they also take more ownership in parent communication. Therefore, next steps are to better prepare parents for this transition and to also determine best practices from exemplar teachers and coaches at the secondary level so we can strike the right balance with parents feeling informed and fostering student independence.

My greatest school PR challenge is overcoming rigidity. Like many PR professionals, I am detail-oriented and a self-described perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse to see when something is one pixel off, but the greatest challenge I have faced in my 13 years in this field is to learn to be more flexible. I might have an aversion to Comic Sans or Curlz, but it’s not the end of the world if those are a font favorite elsewhere. What’s more important is the bigger picture – staff and parents feeling well-informed and students growing and learning in positive school cultures. Instead of telling someone their website isn’t formatted properly, I now make a 2-3 minute screencast if I think there’s a quick tutorial I can offer to provide ongoing professional learning. By being much more flexible, I have deepened relationships and become better at supporting the most important job that occurs in our school system: teaching.

My favorite part of my job is the relationships. I often say that there is no substitute for showing up, and that’s why I make so many school visits each year. From getting to hold a gorgeous monarch butterfly to watching a vibrant student musical to seeing 3-D printing in action from engineering students, I have witnessed countless unique opportunities, and these experiences are just a small piece of what our students get to take part in each and every day. If I didn’t take the time to form relationships, I wouldn’t know that what students value is knowing that the photos I take may show up in their yearbooks. I wouldn’t know the myriad of annual activities that teachers do across our schools because I wouldn’t have witnessed them firsthand. I wouldn’t know about the families of our principals or what they believe makes their school unique. All of that is invaluable because at the end of the day and at the end of this career, relationships are what will remain – both professionally and personally.

The communication tool I use the most is Canva! I would be a brand ambassador if they asked! I am not very mathematically-minded and it can be challenging for someone with an eye for good design – but not an eye for rulers and gridlines – to be a graphic designer. However, Canva has made it possible and I am able to create aesthetically-pleasing graphics with short turn-around times. I have trained communication ambassadors at our schools how to use it as well. Right after Canva, the tool I most use is iMovie. I am completely self-taught in videography and using iMovie and Canva together has made me someone who can add “videographer” to their list of expertise.