When she came to the United States from Malaga, Spain in 2008, Estefania Fernandez-Kelley planned to stay for three years and then return to her home country.
As a participant in the Visiting Teachers program, her objective was to become competent in American English while here, and then take that experience to her classroom back home.
“I was teaching English in Spain, but I wanted to have a good international experience and improve my English,” said Fernandez-Kelley, who also had studied in Ireland and in England.
During her assignments at Augusta High School and now at her current position at Mason County High School, Fernandez-Kelley only partially met her objective. While she successfully improved her English, she did not return to Spain. Instead, she met her future husband.
“My plan changed when I met Chris (Kelley) and we fell in love,” said Fernandez-Kelley. “He kept asking me to stay a little longer, and then a little longer.”
The couple married a year later. Kelley, who is the assistant commonwealth attorney for Mason, Fleming and Bracken Counties, proposed to Fernandez on June 24, 2009 during the first trip he made to Spain to meet her family. Fernandez-Kelley said she is able to remember the date, because the United States soccer team defeated top-ranked Spain in the Confederations Cup that day, ending Spain’s 35-game winning streak and giving the European champions their first defeat since November 15, 2006.
“He was so excited, he proposed that day,” said Fernandez-Kelley. “He said he had been looking for the perfect time. He said he could win two great things and take them out of Spain: the soccer game and me. That’s the way he always tells the story.”
After the two married, they decided to reside in the United States, because they each had established their lives here and they enjoyed their jobs.
“It seemed like the natural thing to do,” said Fernandez-Kelley. “Our lives were centered here by that time. I have excellent office and co-workers. I feel like they are the friends I’ve grown up with, that’s how welcome they make me feel.”
Fernandez-Kelley completed the Visiting Teacher requirements and last summer, through a program with Northern Kentucky University, wrapped up the additional, necessary certification process.
And with today’s advanced technology, the couple is able to stay in touch with Fernandez-Kelley’s family -- father Sergio, mother Silvia and younger brother Daniel -- back in Spain. She said they Skype every Sunday during the school year and every day when school is out. With a six-hour time difference, she said she calls them at 1 p.m., 7 p.m. there, and talks for up to five hours at a time.
“Thanks to the new technologies, being far from your loved ones seems less painful,” said Fernandez-Kelley. “By using Skype, it almost appears that we are in the same place. It is great to have access to this kind of communication.”
Fernandez-Kelley also spends extended visits in Spain every summer and every other Christmas. On the alternating Christmases, her family comes here.
With regards to what the future holds, Fernandez-Kelley said she is content with maintaining her life as it is.
“I think, sometimes, about the future,” she said. “I don’t want to be so far away from my family, but I’m so happy here. After everything I’ve been through, I feel like you can’t make plans. I’m just going with it. I’m happy with it. If that changes, then I will change. I’m happy for now right here.”