Filipino-Canadian Fermer Santos, a long-serving lady educator and school administrator in Toronto, has been in the forefront of helping and mentoring high school students quietly but productively, including those of Filipino descent. As a professional teacher, she is passionately engaged in guiding Filipino students to meet schooling challenges and to successfully achieve academic success for their career pathways and future endeavours, as well. Currently, Ms. F. Santos is the Vice-Principal of Agincourt Collegiate in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario. Formerly, she served as Vice-Principal of Malvern Collegiate Institute, both secondary schools are in the Toronto District School Board publicly- supported school system.
Ms. Fermer Santos came to Canada while still a 16- year old teenager full of hopes and dreams. Looking back, she poignantly confided that having returned her University of the Philippines college admission to leave the Philippines and immigrate, she promised herself that she will enroll and finish a degree program in Canada. Initially, she would like to pursue a career in medical science and did not think of becoming a teacher. But fate comes into play when her big sister, who is a Philippine-licensed Chemical Engineer and a high-school mathematics and science teacher then in Toronto, encouraged her to become one. Not to mention too, her mother, now deceased, who was a teacher in the Philippines advised her to follow in their footsteps, which she did happily and progressively.
A graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in BA Psychology, major in Educational Psychology, F. Santos also completed Certificate courses in Brain and Learning at Harvard University and MIT in the U.S.A. Fermer completed her high school studies at Quezon City Science High School before immigrating to Canada in the 70s and in Canada, she received her Grade 13 Secondary School Diploma from TDSB’s Harbord Collegiate Institute. At that time, only Grade 13 graduates are allowed to pursue a university degree program in Ontario.
As a certified school teacher, Ms. F. Santos handled students in all grades from Kindergarten up to high school levels in all subjects. She is an experienced guidance counselor and a teacher- extraordinaire, according to her peers. Working as a school vice-principal for many years, she was assigned to elementary and high schools on the Board. As the school’s vice head at ACI, she coordinates with the Collegiate Institute’s Committee on Achievement that includes assessment, evaluation, and reporting. She also collaborates with the school team in addressing issues involving mental health and well-being, equity, and anti-oppression. Her other school administrative responsibilities include administration liaison with Scarborough-Agincourt’s Music Parents’ Association as well as creating examination schedules for all students and staff supervision. She is also In-charge of delivering the Education Quality and Accountability Office standard testing, for both the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test on Literacy and Mathematics.
Her community involvement is very impressive, being the Founder and Educational Consultant of the Centre for Advancement, Retraining & Education (CARE). She has been an Ambassadress of Goodwill to the Philippines in 1978. A constant professional resource person on many conferences and seminars organized and sponsored by the Philippine Teachers Association of Canada (PTAC) and the Kababayan Multicultural Centre (KMC), Fermer is also an active member of the Filipino Centre Toronto Annual Outstanding Student Awards Committee.
As a teacher, administrator, and community personality Ms. Santos has received numerous awards and recognition. Among the merits are Mutya ng Pilipinas Canada title, sponsored by Barangay Pilipino Canada in 1977; a recipient of one of the Most Outstanding Filipino Canadian Leaders in Education award sponsored by Binibining Pilipinas Canada Fil-Am Image in Washington, D.C; the 2013 TDSB Excellence Award recipient for Kizuna-Bonds of Friendship Project, a cross-cultural educational student exchange program between Canada and Japan and jointly sponsored by the Toronto Consulate Office of Japan, the United Nations, and the Canadian Foreign Affairs. The international project brought Canadian high school students and teachers to Japan to learn the Japanese language, culture, and way of life through the planned city and village tours in Japan and by reciprocity, Japanese students touring and staying in Toronto, and learning the Canadian way of life. According to Vice Principal Santos, “This unique life-changing experience for all participants was a significant life journey that they will never forget.”
Engaged administratively in observing Black Lives Matter action in the school environment, she is addressing the needs of special education students, students who are deemed at risk, struggling students, and enriched and advanced students as well. Together with the school team, she helps in guiding students to achieve their goals, career pathways, explore their options, and plan their post-secondary destinations. Her constant advice which she shares with students, young and old, especially Toronto newcomer immigrants is to always remember that education is wealth, your biggest challenge and a valuable investment for a better life, adding with the words of encouragement that you should continue to dream and aspire to be the best that you can be as a productive person.
by Tony A. San Juan, OCT-Retired