Arroyo High School U.S. history and ethnic studies instructor Joel Gonzales was honored on Oct. 5 as a 2023 Teacher of the Year by the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), one of just 18 selected to represent their school districts countywide.
Arroyo teachers selected Gonzales as their Teacher of the Year nominee, and district administrators named him Secondary Teacher of the Year and the overall honoree for ACOE recognition. Colleagues praised his leadership, as a member of the Futures Academy, a Small Learning Community, and as co-faculty advisor for the Latinos Unidos Student Club. They cited his ability to “connect with students in a way that inspires them to listen and to learn.”
The SLZUSD School Board celebrated Gonzales and 11 San Lorenzo school nominees for Teacher of the Year during its study session on May 2.
As he accepted an engraved crystal plaque during the ACOE celebration, held at the Castro Valley Center for the Arts, Gonzales thanked his fellow teachers at Arroyo, where he is now in his 19th year, calling them “outstanding and committed educators,” and acknowledging the support of Principal Angela Webster.
In a brief video interview shown during the ACOE event, Gonzales shared both is approach to teaching and what he enjoys most about it.
Referring to his work in ethnic studies, he said, “I often think about what it was like for me as a student. I remember those high school years really, really well. It was really rare that I was able to see myself in the curriculum when I was I high school so many years ago.
“So being able to teach ethnic studies and give my students a space where they feel seen, where they feel like they and their experience matters – and their identity matters – that’s been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve been able to do.”
Gonzales added that he takes great satisfaction in supporting students in a variety of ways.
“One of the things I enjoy the most about teaching is being someone who can be there for the students when they’re dealing with a lot of personal struggles,” he said on the video. “We play so many roles as teachers. We’re there to help them learn the curriculum; we’re there to guide them through challenges within the classroom.
“But we’re also counselors and sometimes psychologists as well, and I find students come to me in that way a lot, and that’s a role that I find very rewarding.”
The other 11 San Lorenzo school nominees for 2022-23 Teacher of the Year are:
Bay Elementary – Cassie Todd (Primary Teacher of the Year)
Bohannon Middle School – Lynn Dillon
Colonial Acres Elementary – Kaila Molzen
Dayton Elementary – Jennifer (Jenn) Cartwright
Del Rey Elementary – Geovanni Marroquin
East Bay Arts High School – Gretchen Baglyos
Grant Elementary – Ingrid Staley
Hesperian Elementary – Billy Esmalde
Hillside Elementary – Elyse Harlo
Lorenzo Manor Elementary – Lori Campbell
Washington Manor Middle School – Kathy Santos