BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Nidia Fernandez-Lee had made up her mind: she wasn’t going to watch the Oscars Sunday night.

Fernandez-Lee, who teaches computer science at Mountain Brook Junior High School, thought watching the show would bring bad luck to one of her students. Years ago, when she was a math teacher in the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate program at Shades Valley High School, one of her students was Daniel Scheinert.

Director Daniel Scheinert poses for a portrait to promote the film “The Death of Dick Long” at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

Back then, Scheinert was just a theater kid in Fernandez-Lee’s AP calculus class. On Sunday, he was an accomplished filmmaker up for several Academy Awards for his work co-directing and writing the film, “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

“When I watched the Golden Globes, they didn’t win as many,” said Fernandez-Lee, who has been known as “Ms. NFL” to her students for the last 25 years. “When I didn’t watch the Screen Actors Guild Awards, they won a lot. So I thought, ‘You know what? I’m not going to watch the Oscars so I don’t blow it.'”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Los Angeles, Scheinert and his directing partner Daniel Kwan had just won their first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Scheinert was the first to take to the microphone, list in hand.

“I had a fantasy as a kid of winning an award and going up and telling off all the teachers that gave my brother and I detention so here goes,” Scheinert said. “I’m just kidding, these are teachers that changed my life, mostly public school teachers.”

As Scheinert began naming off some of the teachers he had as a teenager, including 2008 Alabama Teacher of the Year Roy Hudson who led the theater program at Shades Valley, Scheinert said “Ms. NFL.”

“You guys educated me, you inspired me, you taught me to be less of a butthead,” Scheinert said.

Nidia Fernandez-Lee, a computer science teacher at Mountain Brook Junior High, was one of several teachers thanked by Academy Award-winning director Daniel Scheinert at the Oscars on Sunday, March 12, 2023. (Courtesy Mountain Brook Schools)

In a matter of seconds, Fernandez-Lee’s phone began buzzing with calls and texts about what had just happened.

“After that, I said ‘I have to watch. I have to watch my sweet baby,'” Fernandez-Lee said.

“Everything Everywhere” would end the night with seven Academy Awards, including Best Director for Scheinert and Kwan, as well as Best Picture.

“Just to see something like that happen, it’s like a teacher’s best dream,” she said. “I’m tearing up just talking about it.”

Fernandez-Lee remembers how before the Oscars and Hollywood acclaim, Scheinert was another student in her class whom she remembered as being smart and always curious about the people around him.

“He was really attentive to everyone and to what they were doing and what they were saying,” she said. “He could mention something you said two weeks ago. It didn’t seem like he had to try hard.”

One moment that stuck out to Fernandez-Lee was how one day after class, Scheinert had a question about the lesson they had just covered. Asking for his notes, she realized that he didn’t have any. Instead, what she found was many of the things she had said during class throughout the year.

“I asked ‘What have you been writing down this whole time,’ and he said ‘You said some of the most funny and ridiculous things I’ve heard. I’m going to put them in my movie one day,'” she said.

Fernandez-Lee said that compared to many of his fellow students, all gifted teenagers trying to find their way, Scheinert was always someone who knew who he was and what he wanted to do.

“He always seems very relaxed in his own skin,” she said.

Fernandez-Lee would go on to support Scheinert in his creative pursuits, whether it was as the lead in the school play or watching one of his short films at the Sundance Film Festival in Birmingham.

“I would go to Sidewalk and think it was amazing that a 17-year-old kid could make movies like that,” she said.

Over the years, she and Scheinert have kept in touch. Not long ago, they reconnected after he added her on Instagram. Over the last few months, she has encouraged him through all his success.

“I texted him Saturday and said ‘You have exceeded all my hopes and dreams. I’m just proud of you for getting to this point,'” she said.

For Fernandez-Lee, the fact that one of her students would think enough of her to publicly make her part of his success on one of the biggest cultural platforms in the world makes her feel very special.

“When you teach, you want every kid to be successful,” she said. “You want them to be contributing members of society and to be the best they can be. Sometimes, you feel that connection and hope that they remember you. Sometimes, you don’t feel like you’re making an impact, so when someone like Daniel calls your name out like that, it’s humbling.”

Daniel Scheinert, left, and Daniel Kwan accept the award for best original screenplay for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Oscars on Sunday, March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Despite Scheinert now coming with the title “Academy Award-winning director,” Fernandez Lee said she still seems the same Daniel she knew so many years ago.

“That a person as nice and humble as he is gets recognized for his work is amazing,” she said. “That a really good human being recognizes you and appreciates you, that’s more important than anything else.”

On Monday morning, Fernandez-Lee’s students slowly began putting together if the same “Mrs. NFL” Scheinert mentioned in his speech was her. From there, she was a schoolwide celebrity.

“I’ve had several students come by and say hello,” she said.

So does Fernandez-Lee think the next Daniel Scheinert could be in her class?

“Who knows,” she said. “It might be the next Steve Jobs.”