Coach Art Fernandez has spent the past 39 years as the Miami Beach school's PE teacher.
ELLIOT RODRIGUEZ: New at 6:00, Coach Art Fernandez has spent the past 39 years as the PE teacher at St. Patrick's Catholic School in Miami Beach. He'll retire at the end of the school year, but before that, he was given a very special sendoff. CBS 4 photojournalist Mitch Cuba was there for the party.
ART FERNANDEZ: 39 years ago, when I first started in the school, I had attended this school. As a child, I had attended the school, so I knew about the gym. And I knew how excited I was about working here at the school that I had gone to, and the kids, and being able to coach basketball and volleyball, and teach kids the right way.
NICK GARZIGA: Coach was that one guy that always has a place in my heart. He told me how to play sports. He gave me a lot of tips. He taught me courage. He gave me courage.
NICOLE SHAW: My story with Coach is one that I know I share with hundreds of others whose lives have been deeply touched and impacted by Coach Art.
ART FERNANDEZ: My job is to concern myself about the children I work with.
NICOLE SHAW: He was a father figure to my brothers and I and so many others. He was there to give us, mostly my brothers, the stern, tough love that we needed. He was there for my mom when she needed help, and he even took me to school when I needed a ride.
- Another student wrote, "Thank you for helping me stay in the sport of basketball by helping me into a team a few years ago." Another wrote, "Coach, thank you so much for all your years of dedication to us. You have taught me many valuable life lessons."
DAN GELBER: You have created literally thousands of ripples in the world of children who are better, who feel better about themselves, not necessarily because they may be better athletes, but because they're better people because of your example. And that is truly something worth applauding.
And I am proud give Art Fernandez a key the city of Miami Beach.
- I'm sad that he's leaving because he's like the rock of this school. He's like the meaning of Saint Patrick's.
STUDENTS: We love you, Coach!
LAUREN PASTRANA: Wow.
ELLIOT RODRIGUEZ: Starting his retirement with a lot of love.
LAUREN PASTRANA: Oh, yeah. To see those former students tearing up, he meant so much to them.
ELLIOT RODRIGUEZ: Way to go, Coach Art.