During a recent school day at Notre Dame, middle-division students in Marisol Aguilar-Fernandez’s Spanish class were learning about—and experiencing—a common celebration in Galicia, a northwestern region of Spain, called ”Festival del Pulpo.” What many in the class probably didn’t know at first was that the main dish Spaniards consume during the celebration was octopus.
“It is not uncommon for Ms. Aguilar to arrange a modified kitchen in her classroom, complete with traditional serving pieces and utensils, in order to share with her students some of the rich Spanish culture,” said Jill Mistretta, principal of Notre Dame’s middle division. “I never would have guessed our middle school students would be so willing to taste octopus. But they did and they even were asking for seconds!”
Fell in love with Notre Dame
Marisol Aguilar-Fernandez first stepped on the Notre Dame campus when she interviewed for an open language position in the school’s middle division. She had spent a few years at the International School, a private school in Farmington Hills, so she was used to the independent school academic environment. Upon signing on as an NDPMA faculty member, however, she noticed a big difference.
“My first impression of Notre Dame was super amazing,” she said. “I fell in love with this place immediately. I could feel that the school had a very peaceful environment, and people in the Notre Dame family have welcomed me whole-heartedly ever since my interview.”
She said she also is very pleased that the school has allowed her to bring in new and different ideas to help share the Hispanic culture with the students.
Born in Venezuela to Spanish parents, Aguilar-Fernandez has been in the United States since 1997 when her husband, Rodolfo, was transferred by General Motors to Michigan. She is a U.S. citizen and also has dual citizenship with Venezuela and Spain. Such a wide and varied international background has been a big plus for her since she first became a teacher after a number of years working in customer service.
“I originally became a teacher because I had a passion for teaching kids not only the language I dearly love, but also the Hispanic culture,” she said. “And I love that I can influence them in so many positive ways.”
According to principal Mistretta, Aguilar-Fernandez has been influencing middle-school-age children in “super” positive ways since hiring on in 2013.
“Ask any one of her current or former students, Ms. Aguilar is a superstar teacher,” Mistretta said. “She understands adolescents, including their behaviors and interests. Also, very importantly, she understands how fragile adolescents can be at any given moment.”
Mistretta said that is one of the reasons why Aguilar-Fernandez incorporates so much activity and opportunity for fun into her daily lesson plans.
“She cooks for her students, takes them on field trips and will even play an impromptu game of kickball with the children if the opportunity presents itself.”
Aguilar-Fernandez and her husband, who live in Waterford, have three children of their own: Rudy, a senior at Notre Dame Prep, Victoria, who is in middle school, and Grace, who is in elementary school.
“We are a family involved in many activities outside of school, such as church and swimming,” she said. “Also, I am a Spanish tutor and I do face painting with my mother for different type of events and celebrations. We’re also involved in karate and during any free time I have left, we love to spend it with my family and friends.”
Mistretta adds that from the day she first interviewed Aguilar-Fernandez, she knew she needed her in the middle division.
“I wanted our students to experience her energy as well as her passion of communicating with Spanish-speaking people,” Mistretta said.
“Also, Ms. Aguilar is a wonderful role model of our Marist mission. She is deeply devoted to her faith and humbly shares that with those in her presence, including and especially her students.”
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." The Marist Fathers and Brothers sponsor NDPMA's Catholic identity and manages its educational program. Notre Dame is accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.