Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Annual Teacher of the Year Award 2016


Lilliana Maldonado-Mendez
2016 Lilliana Maldonado-Mendez, Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, Virginia

Ever since she could remember, Lilliana Maldonado-Mendez wanted to be a teacher.

“I used to arrange my dolls and stuffed animals in rows, give them each a pencil, and pretend
that I was teaching them to read and write,” recalled Maldonado-Mendez, who was born and
raised in Puerto Rico. “When I was in high school, I held tutoring sessions every afternoon for
my classmates, where we discussed the books we read in Spanish or English class, did the main
homework, and studied for whatever test we had the next day. To this day, in class reunions my
classmates still call me ‘la maestrita’ (the little teacher).”

She was inspired to pursue her career by an aunt who was a teacher, principal and
superintendent. But she was sidetracked from that dream when she started college.

“My parents wanted me to follow the family tradition of lawyers, accountants or doctors,”
she said. “Being 17 and a dutiful daughter, I studied accounting and economics for my bachelor’s
degree, graduating from the same university my dad went to, the Catholic University of Puerto

She then married and moved to New York.

“After almost finishing a master’s in international relations at Syracuse University, I decided
that, to be truly happy, I had to follow my calling, so I started a master’s in foreign language
education,” she said. “The day I received my teaching certificate was one of the happiest and
most-fulfilling of my life.”

Maldonado-Mendez came to the Arlington County School District in 1995. She is a Spanish
teacher at Washington-Lee High School.

“When I retire, I want to look back with the satisfaction of having helped my students learn
and appreciate the Spanish language and the variety of cultures it represents,” the Sterling
resident said. “But above all, I want my students to know that I cared for them and their wellbeing,
and that I taught them with love.”


Teaching philosophy

  • I believe that all children can learn, and the main task of a teacher is to facilitate that learning
    by providing the environment, support and encouragement every child needs.
  • I am strongly committed to multiculturalism in the classroom.
  • I am committed to my profession and want to make every day in the classroom a positive
    learning experience for my students and for myself.


  • Founder and sponsor of UNICEF Club at Washington-Lee High School
  • Master teacher for student observer
  • Founded and sponsored a Spanish junior honor society at Gunston Middle School
  • IB HL2 class invited to attend Grammy Museum Program at the White House
  • Who’s Who Among America’s High School Teachers