The Accident | When she was 12, she took her bicycle for a spin. Her tires caught in a rut, and she crashed into a light pole, fracturing 13 bones in her face. Unconscious and bleeding on the side of the road, she remembers dreaming she was with Jesus and wanting to stay with him, but he told her she must live because, “You have many things to do.”
Special Education | One of those things was to get right back on the bike once she was released from the hospital. The other was devoting her life to helping others, especially children—like her brother who could read but couldn’t write.
Early Childhood | One of nine children, her parents wanted them to meet people from other cultures, so they were sent to the private Carol Morgan School. “I had friends from China and Japan, and had many opportunities to share with the very rich and regular people like us. Father had to work to pay for all nine of us to go there.”
Pulling Strings | After high school, she studied at a local university. When she decided to apply to Xavier, she was told she missed the deadline. Her father called his friend, the archbishop, who called the Cincinnati archbishop who called the president of Xavier who called the admissions office and said, “Give this girl a chance.”
Clowning Around | She joined the swim team because she wanted the discipline of 5:00 a.m. practices. She also joined the Clown Club, performing at basketball games, hospice centers and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Going Home | After graduating, she worked for the Milwaukee public schools as a bilingual special education teacher. Then she won a fellowship at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she earned a master’s in bilingual special education. She returned home in 1992 and put her knowledge to work.
Changing the Game | “In the D.R. then, the only special education was for kids who were deaf, blind or had mental retardation. One thing I have changed is to observe children in the classroom and then meet with teachers to determine the needs of each child.”
Word of Mouth | Her reputation spread. Families brought their children to her—so many that she started a school, The World of Learning, which became a resource center offering special education testing, training and instruction. Now a consultant, she creates individual education plans for children and works with them as part of their school day.
Authority Figure | Fernandez-Albert is now an authority for special education in the Dominican. “I am one of the top three in the country. I’m seeing the difference as schools are starting to talk about integration and inclusion. You can’t do it without educating the teachers, and they are starting to do that.”