A love for children fueled Celia Cabrera’s career in education for more than three decades.
Her former colleagues at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens say she was an inspiration to its community.
Celia “Celita” Cabrera, Ph.D, 75, taught Spanish at Pace for 34 years and was chair of the foreign language department when she retired in June.
“Dr. Cabrera, or Celita as she is known by all, has been a beacon of love, enthusiasm and energy at Monsignor Edward Pace High School for decades,” Principal Ana Garcia said. “Her love for her students, her passion for teaching and for life, her dedication to helping those in need, made her an essential part of who we are here.”
Before she became an educator at Pace, Cabrera drove a school bus while also working as a substitute teacher at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Hialeah.
If parents of the kids on her route weren’t home, Cabrera said she’d take them to her house and cook for them until they got picked up.
Cabrera said she always loved working with children. “I’m happy if they’re happy,” she said.
One day while driving students, Cabrera realized that she was happy and would be even more so if she worked full-time in a classroom.
“That’s the day my life changed forever,” she said.
Cabrera said she earned a master’s degree from St. Thomas University and when she was 61, received an online doctorate degree in Hispanic-American
Literature from the National University of San Marcos in Peru.
Cabrera self-published three books -- “Nuestras Raices” (“Our Roots”), “Nuestras Huellas” (“Our Footprints”) and “Nuestros Primero Pasos” (“Our First Steps”) -- which she said she used for her thesis.
Her career at Pace began when administrators called Immaculate Conception in need of a substitute teacher.
After that first day, Cabrera said she never left.
Cabrera was also a volunteer and participated in every school activity.
“I love to give [back] and help,” she said.
She was famous at Pace for her cafecito and drew long lines of colleagues eager to share her special coffee.
Cabrera lives in Hialeah with her husband Mario Cabrera, 76, and has three adult daughters and six grandchildren.
“God is repaying me daily,” she said.
As for her lengthy career working with kids, Cabrera said, “I know it’s a cliché saying, but I truly believe that when you do what you love, it doesn’t really feel like work.”
When life returns to normal, she plans to visit Pace often to attend pep rallies and sporting events.
Until then, she will be missed by students and faculty.
“For many in the Pace community, she is the glue that kept them together through difficult times and her legacy will live on for many years to come,” said Surella Rodriguez, director of alumni relations.
Cabrera said of the good wishes she received upon her retirement, “I’m overwhelmed with joy.”
She is looking forward to her next chapter, which will include scrapbooking and volunteer work.
“Generations of families have known and loved her because of the impact she had on them,” said Garcia. “She will be sorely missed but we are better because we have known her. We will work diligently to preserve the legacy she forged inside these walls.”
Photo above of Celita Cabrera courtesy of the school.