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Meet Marta Garrido of Merit International School of Languages

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marta Garrido.

Marta, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Merit International School of Languages started from a unique place. The journey for me, personally, took many roads, twists, and turns, which began with leaving Cuba with my family as refugees, early in the 1960s. Throughout my career, I have developed innovative, traditional and non-traditional programs, which have focused on creating successful educational platforms.

Always studious, I loved to read and was an incredibly curious child. My education really began when I attended university in Washington, DC, followed by Florida International University, where I received a BSc. I then obtained an M.Ed. in Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Disorders from UF, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Florida Atlantic University.

Over the years, academia became the core of my life. I became Adjunct Professor, co-developing and designing Nova Southeastern University’s ESOL Graduate Program, and implementing the Long-distance Delivery ESOL Programs.

I was also Assistant Principal at Riverside School in Ft. Myers, Florida where I coordinated individual educational programs for exceptional education students, provided intensive behavioral programs for difficult-to-manage students and developed a showcase work program for developmentally disabled young adults in the community. As Program Supervisor at Sunland Training Center, I developed and supervised educational programs for exceptional students in a boarding school environment.

Other positions have included Program Director for the Society for Autistic Children; appointment by Governor Bob Graham to a four-year term on the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, in recognition of her advocacy efforts on behalf of the developmentally challenged citizens of Florida; and appointed to Florida State, Bureau of Exceptional Student Education- Task Force on Mental Disabilities to develop and improve the educational and ancillary services offered to children with learning problems through the public school system.

In later years, I have been Adjunct Professor in the Intensive English Program at Florida Atlantic University, teaching English as a Second Language to foreign students. I also taught Spanish. In addition to teaching, I have guided students toward meeting their career goals through the curriculum offered.

I met my business partner, Gene Evans when she began to take Spanish classes. Gene holds a BA in English and Journalism from Florida International University, and a Masters in Linguistics from Regents College in London but shortly after graduating from FIU, she moved to England, where she lived for many years. She has American and British citizenship.

Gene’s career began in the field of educational publishing, and subsequently, she established her own successful, international publishing company, specializing in higher and professional education, which continued for over 25 years. She has traveled extensively around the globe, working with people at all levels, accumulating an in-depth knowledge of business and higher education, while continually employing her expertise. For ten years, she also taught English as a Second Language to adults in the UK. Gene returned to reside permanently in South Florida in 2010.

At Merit International School of Languages, we are dedicated to teaching ESOL and other languages, inclusive of cultural education, to students with a serious interest in improving their lives. We strive for the highest standards of teaching while ensuring our students enjoy the experience along the way. We hold small classes only, focusing on the specific needs of our students. We employ a no stress strategy to classes – the only pressure on students is the one they place on themselves to learn, and we guarantee they will learn if they follow our guidelines.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The complicated, expensive and almost impossible process of accreditation from Homeland Security. Without this accreditation, we cannot offer I20 visas to our students.

Merit International School of Languages – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our company’s mission is to assist our students in all areas of their lives, and to this end, we are available to them 24/7. This is unique to a language school. We teach languages and help students navigate the intricacies of various systems in the United States. We push our students to achieve their goals in the least amount of time, so they can get on with their lives academically and/or career-wise.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
We have had many proud moments but the ones that stand out are those when students who could not speak English at all come into the school feeling very excited and tell us how they communicated their needs in English.

Another is when students in TOEFL preparation classes receive high grades and are able to continue their academic careers.

As our students excel, we excel. Our school has a strong community feel, almost like a family, and their achievements are our proudest moments.

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