Fuentes-Pesquera moved from Puerto Rico to New Jersey when he was 20 years old to attend graduate school, studying microbiology. He subsequently got a job in research and development at Johnson and Co., where he worked for six years primarily on developing cancer medications. He then spent four years at the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, working both in research and in the chemical library. When both of these companies moved overseas, Fuentes-Pesquera decided to pursue teaching biology rather than continuing his work in the lab.
Before coming to work at PHS in 2011, Fuentes-Pesquera attended Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Specifically, he completed the Rutgers-Center for Effective School Practices for Alternate Route Teachers Program and the Program for Teacher of Students with Disabilities Certification. He also received certification in Special Education, a passion that has come from personal experience with learning disabilities.
“I have children in my life, in my family, that have struggled with learning … I have a sense of responsibility with every student, including the special needs students, and I have that passion of caring for [them],” Fuentes-Pesquera said.
Coming from Puerto Rico, Fuentes-Pesquera’s bi-cultural background also helped him communicate better with Hispanic and ESL students at PHS.
“I struggled to come into an Anglo culture, coming from Hispanic culture, so I know how hard it can be,” Fuentes-Pesquera said. “I can help other students with other backgrounds and the Special Ed students to achieve their goals, as I did mine.”
Although he knew English, adjusting to the culture in New Jersey was difficult for Fuentes-Pesquera, but he was still able to follow his dream of being a scientist.
Biology has always been his passion, starting when he wanted to become a doctor, to performing lab research, and—most recently—teaching.
Outside of the classroom, Fuentes-Pesquera enjoys the outdoors, going to the beach, and stamp-collecting. He was a DJ for a year during his time at Rutgers. Fuentes-Pesquera can often be found helping his church, supporting LGBT groups in the area, or simply having a good time with his family.
At PHS, Fuentes-Pesquera serves as the positive education captain, part of a group of teachers who strive to cultivate an environment of positive psychology and education in the school. He also works with the Shore Bowl club.
Around school, Fuentes-Pesquera makes a point to say hello to all his students in the halls. His teaching method stresses positivity and relates to students who may struggle to adjust to life at PHS. He is a resource for these students, and cherishes the relationships he builds with them outside of the classroom. The ability to connect with students, having them engage in and positively relate to the class, is Fuentes-Pesquera’s favorite aspect of teaching.
“A smile in the morning, a good morning, it just turns the day [into] a positive mood … throughout the class you have friendly teachers and a friendly atmosphere that allows [students] to feel open: to ask for help, to enjoy what they are doing, rather than a punishment for being in school,” Fuentes-Pesquera said.
“Determination was important, is always important, for me. It’s how I became a scientist in the industry; it’s how I became a teacher. Just working hard,” Fuentes-Pesquera said.