Guidance Counselor Marta Fernadez’s desire for educating and helping others around her was innate. Her love of education, and most importantly helping students and their families, grew over the 33 years she was in education.
Having worked in education since 1989, Fernandez worked in six different schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward. After three decades, she is saying goodbye to the field and focusing on other activities like the Parkinson’s Foundation, being a real estate agent, working privately with families about college and traveling the world with her husband of 30 years, Arnie Fernandez .
“Overall, it has been a wonderful experience,” Guidance Counselor Marta Fernadez said. “I started out as a teacher but once I became a counselor, my role became more meaningful to me and so did the relationships with my students.”
Fernadez’s first choice of a career was with business, specifically fashion merchandising where she worked for five years. She then worked for a summer program called the Private Industry Council (PIC) where she helped students in low socioeconomic neighborhoods with work ethic. Spurred on by another teacher, she got her certification in 1988 from the Florida Department of Education to teach in business education.
“I went to work for a program that had federal funds to work with students during the summer that were from socioeconomic low areas and my job was to make sure that they were showing up and I was advising them on how to dress for work,” Fernandez said. “I met Magali Abrahante and she said to me, ‘You work with students really nicely. You should think about getting your certification in education.’ And I said, you know what? I will try that.”
Fernadez later took an opportunity with Miami-Dade to work in student advocacy where she gathered information for parents concerned about potential schools. That department would later dissolve and merge into the Equal Education Opportunity Office (EEOC), in which she interviewed and investigated teachers.
“We were a center for parents to call us when they had questions about some process or something they did not understand about what was going on in their school,” Fernadez said. “That merged into the EEOC and what we did was investigate any claims that teachers may have had against another teacher.”
During her time with EEOC, she married Arnaldo Fernandez, and got her Masters degree for counseling at Barry University while having her two children, Danielle and Christopher Fernandez. Fernadez moved to Broward County and worked at Cypress Bay High School as a counselor for four years where she met guidance director Mishelle Difede, later transferring with Difede to West Broward High.
“We both came over here at the same time as counselors and have been together here now for 15 years. She works so hard and goes way above and beyond for her students,”said Guidance Director Mishelle Difede. “I am going to miss her terribly, and more than that, I value her friendship.”
As one of the original Bobcats, Fernadez would see generations of students come and go, including her own children. Registrar II Janet Zapata specifically shared this experience as both of their children graduated West Broward together. Zapata, through her experiences with Fernadez and how she interacts with her family, would take Fernadez’s values as something to never be forgotten.
“She is a good family oriented person and I think that she carries that into her job because it shows with the dedication and the patience that she has with her students,” Registrar II Janet Zapata said. “I think that is what I will take from her. She is just a genuine kind hearted person.”
Fernadez’s departure would be welcomed until eight weeks into the 2022 school year due to a Florida school system policy known as the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). This would give her the ability to spend more time with her Bobcat peers in the Guidance office and with the students at West Broward High. Fernandez’s final act of service to those around her is a message for everyone to try and get along with people and to learn as much as you can from those around you.
“Try to learn from everybody. You never know what else is going on in others lives and that there is a path for everybody and not to give up. There will still be a path and a reward for you and just know who you are and stick to that path and pay attention to others,” Fernadez said.