Degrees and Certifications:
Mr. Diego Fuentes
I didn't realize it at the time, but I decided to become a teacher after I dropped out of high school. It took a very special dean reaching out to me to help me find my way back to school and onward to a full scholarship at the University of Illinois. High school was a tremendous time of loss and pain for me but a very kind and intelligent man saw through the way I was dealing with my pain and helped me to develop much more of my potential. I never felt like I fit in throughout my high school years, but I worked through all of the academically and socially challenging situations and eventually went on to study psychology. I developed an appreciation for doing things differently and accepting people for who they are, no matter how far from the "norm" they may appear.
After graduating from the University of Illinois I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had some vague notions, but it took me a while to truly pursue a career in teaching special needs students. I loved music, playing guitar and composing and considered becoming a rock star. I even moved to Los Angeles and formed a band with my brothers. You probably never heard of us because we failed. To support my ambitions though, I dabbled in education. My first job out of college was as a 1 to 1 assistant with a young man on the autism spectrum. He was fascinating and I was drawn into this world at that very moment, in spite of thinking I wanted to be a rock star. I eventually received teaching certifications in Los Angeles and worked as a long term substitute teacher. I met my wife there and we moved to Reddick where I eventually found my way to the MOST amazing school I have ever seen. Hillcrest School.
I often wondered how the whole world hadn't heard of this place. I was hired here to work in our Life Skills Unit with students on the Autism Spectrum, then went on to working with Intellectually disabled students and finally I had the privilege of starting our very first Performing Arts program!!! Music opens up our student's world! I was honored to be selected as Marion County's Golden Apple Teacher of the Year and as a Finalist for Florida's 2018 Teacher of the Year. Every day I learn something new. Our students never fail to surprise and astound me. I believe that the more we share the MAGIC that is Hillcrest, the more accepting we will become as people in general and the stronger our community will become as a whole.