Maria Hernandez was born in Cuba but moved to the United States when she was two years old. When she began pre-school, she didn't know a word of English.
"I don't remember how I learned English since I was so young," she stated. "The majority of my school years, I suffered through selective mutism and dissociative disorder due to the anxiety of learning a new language."
She was a normal kid at home, learning how to read and write Spanish from her mother, who would give her daily lessons. It wasn't until the 7th grade when she became fully aware of her school surroundings. She went from making poor grades to becoming an A/B student. She graduated in the top 5% of her class, earning a scholarship to attend Hillsborough Community College tuition-free for two years. She then transferred to the University of South Florida, graduating with a degree in Foreign Language Education (Spanish).
After working as a Spanish teacher in Tampa and Miami for many years, Ms. Hernandez and her family decided to move to St. Augustine. She started working at FSDB in the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Department in August of 2002. Ms. Hernandez was an ESOL Specialist in the Blind Department and learned braille. Nine years later, her counterpart in the Deaf Department left FSDB, so she took that opportunity to learn ASL. She transferred to the Deaf Department and taught multi-grade and multi-level deaf/hard of hearing (d/hh) English Language Learners (ELL) students. "It was quite a challenge to learn my third language (ASL) and trying to communicate with the deaf students and staff members," she recounted.
In 2019, her counterpart in the Blind Department transferred and she began servicing all ELL students in both the Deaf and Blind Departments during Distance Learning. Eventually, her former intern, Diana Ospina, was hired to teach in the Deaf High School, and Ms. Hernandez went back to teaching in the Blind Department.
Ms. Hernandez currently teaches two Blind High School classes, but continually works with elementary and middle school students in both departments for special pull-out sessions.
"I have been blessed and love working with all my students, both in the blind and deaf departments," she said. "I feel completely fulfilled!"
Thank you Ms. Hernandez for all your hard work and dedication to our students. #HispanicHeritageMonth
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school in historic St. Augustine, available to eligible pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired or deafblind. The FSDB experience gives students the edge to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. Early intervention and outreach services are also available throughout the state of Florida. Private donations help to support programs that directly benefit students which are not covered by state funds. To inquire about enrollment, contact Parent Services at 904-827-2212 or 904-201-4527 VP. To schedule a campus tour, contact Outreach Services at bit.ly/fsdbtours. For more information, visit fsdbk12.org.