Once again I face the sad task of addressing our community to notify of the passing from the earthly plane of Dr. Annette López de Méndez. In truth, our hearts, already hurt by the passing of two other beloved members of our faculty, seem to falter and be unable to endure this new blow. However, we have to look within ourselves and our spiritual inner selves for means that will allow us to stand upright and be the pillars to give strength to one another. We are a big family and this deep pain touches us all. Therefore, it falls into ourselves to share solidarity, consolation and mutual support.
Dr. Annette López Méndez obtained her doctoral degree from Harvard University in the area of research in Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments. Previously, she obtained a master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from New York University, and later an Advanced Graduate Studies Certificate from Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, in the area of Research, Practice and Education Policy.
In 1989, after several years of being a Montessori teacher and later a professor at the College of Education, she began her tenure as Director of the Educational Research Center (CIE, for its Spanish acronym). From then on, she began what became more than three decades of arduous work, with ongoing projects and research aimed at producing innovative ways to prepare teachers, especially in early childhood, her greatest passion. That same year, she founded Cuaderno de Investigación en la Educación, initially a periodical of the CIE and eventually, together with Pedagogía, what became the Puerto Rico Journal of Education, an academic journal with an international scope.
Among her many activities stand out the Project for the Development of Successful Community Schools (ECOE, for its Spanish acronym), in 1995; the Induction Project: An Integrative Vision for Teachers Continuous Professional Development (1998); and various initiatives that integrated arts, sciences, and technology to the curriculum at all levels: elementary, intermediate, and high school. From that come up titles such as Preparing the Teachers of the Future (2000-2002), Distance Education for the Professional Development of Teachers in the Educational Regions of Culebra and Fajardo (2003-2004), and The Integration of Arts to the Curriculum: A Project for the Professional Development of Teachers (2004-2005).
She also worked with English language educators for almost a decade, through a series of initiatives, from 2010 to 2017, grouped under English as a Second Language. Likewise, she collaborated with mathematics education through the MSP-San Juan project (coordinated by Dr. Omar Hernández from 2008 to 2011) and differentiated education (with Dr. Jorge Maldonado in 2011-2012).
Among the projects she was most passionate about during her prolific career were: Coquí, Coquí: Interactive Lessons in Environmental Science, in 1999, a pioneering multimedia project distributed on CD-ROM, which highlighted the contributions of Dr. Rafael Joglar in the study of the Puerto Rican coquí, and aimed at science teachers from Puerto Rico, the United States, and Latin America; the adoption of the Innovative Program in Education: New Environments for Academic and Fiscal Sustainability (PIENSA), a special undertaking for low-income communities in the housing projects of San Juan metropolitan area. And her magnum opus: the ALCANZA Project, which for more than 15 years the Ángel Ramos Foundation has supported. With ALCANZA, and together with an extensive group of collaborators from the University of Puerto Rico and society at large, she produced a series of training workshops, with printed and digital manuals available in Spanish and English, as well as countless materials for early childhood educators. With this endeavor, she literally reached learning communities in each and every municipality in Puerto Rico, but also various Hispanic communities in the United States, and several Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Peru. Equally important has been her participation in another groundbreaking project: PASITOS (since 2010) for which, together with several colleagues from the College of Education, she developed a meticulous instrument to measure the quality of services public and private early childhood care centers throughout Puerto Rico offer, so that they can receive the necessary support to become centers of educational excellence.
Through the CIE, she managed to establish academic and research exchanges with various universities and institutions, including Brown University (Rhode Island), Metropolitan State University of Denver (Colorado), University of South Florida, and Cambridge University (England), as well as the United States’ Library of Congress. Countless were also her collaborations with Puerto Rico’s Department of Education, Department of Families and the Administration for the Care and Integral Development of Children (ACUDEN, for its Spanish acronym), Department of Health, Department of Housing, Department of Labor, and the Council Office on Developmental Deficiencies (CEDD).
All the projects she directed always culminated with the publication of a manual to communicate their achievements in different ways. Every time, the contributions of all participants were included: from experts, to teachers and students, the latter whom she always encouraged to do research and publish, all the time.
Her desire to keep abreast of research in education led her to participate in the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and countless conferences to which she was either invited as lecturer or simply to listen to her colleagues, never missing the opportunity to establish collaborative efforts. For that same reason, for more than 30 consecutive years, the CIE sponsored the Puerto Rican Congress of Research in Education, the Puerto Rican Congress of Academic Journals, and more recently the Student Congress of Research and Creation in Education, which this year would have seen its first international celebration. With these events as vehicles, she intended to keep our College of Education at the forefront of academic research, with exchanges, collaborations and academic-cultural ties with countries of Latin America, Europe and the United States.
Outside the CIE, she maintained close collaborations with various non-profit organizations; in addition to those already mentioned: the Puerto Rico Chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, for which she served as president some years ago), the Puerto Rico Museum of Art, and the Ponce Museum of Art.
Annette López de Méndez was always a passionate advocate for the University of Puerto Rico, the Río Piedras Campus, our College of Education, and the Puerto Rican society as a whole. To them she dedicated her life and all her intellectual doings. Her students were always her greatest inspiration, and to them she dedicated all her time, with the greatest effort and dedication, in and outside of academia. She was a tireless, inspiring educator.
Annette won’t be physically with us anymore, but her works for the betterment of education will continue to speak of her. I am sure that each one of us treasures memories of those great undertakings and responsibilities.
Receive my solidarity embrace, and I wish the Creator be a source of consolation and hope in this difficult moment we have sadly had to share.
Rest in peace, partner!
Mayra B. Chárriez-Cordero, Ph.D.
College of Education