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May 21, 2018

SVSU grad inspired to teach in Detroit

Norma Gonzalez has always possessed a strong desire to teach. Those who have seen her in action are convinced she has made the right career choice.

A math education major, Gonzalez graduated from Saginaw Valley State University May 12. She has accepted a teaching position at Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit, where she has been working as a long-term substitute teacher.

“Teaching in any capacity is always something I knew I would do,” Gonzalez said. “By the time I was in third grade, that was always my answer when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.”

Roberto Garcia, director of the SVSU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, worked closely with Gonzalez during her time at the university. After getting to know her in his English composition class, Garcia became a mentor to Gonzalez and sees a rare quality in her.

“When Norma came here, she knew what she wanted,” Garcia said. “Teaching is her passion and, on top of that, she's a natural leader. She has influence and she doesn't shy away from the responsibility of leadership. She embraces it.”

Raised in a bilingual household, Gonzalez is fluent in Spanish and hopes to continue to work in an environment where she can employ her Spanish education minor in the classroom.

“Being bilingual is a huge benefit to Norma in her current career track,” Garcia said. “She's excited about the opportunity to go into areas where she can use her ability to speak Spanish in order to teach and educate.”

As someone who has made it her mission to help others, Gonzalez was always heavily involved in tutoring programs throughout her high school years at Pontiac Academy for Excellence, a charter school authorized by SVSU. (Cesar Chavez is also an SVSU-authorized charter school.)

In college, she was immediately drawn to the SVSU tutoring center where she felt her particular skill set would be utilized.

Active on campus,  Gonzalez was involved with the Latino Awareness Association, which aims to promote unity and celebrate diversity while spreading awareness of the many different Latino cultures. She was also a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a service sorority on campus. The organization completed monthly service work, which included volunteering in animal shelters and local soup kitchens.

Gonzalez also worked as a mentor through the SVSU Public School Academy program in which she would lend her time to incoming freshmen as they attempted to settle into campus life.

“Norma always volunteered to work that program,” Garcia said. “She spoke so highly about how the program helped her get situated into college life and I really think she enjoyed reaching back and mentoring some of the young people coming in after her.”

Gonzalez also worked in the dean's office for the SVSU College of Education, where her passion and leadership qualities quickly became evident. She  helped to create an SVSU event – Heroes in Education – in which influential educators are honored for their dedication to student growth.

As part of the College of Education leadership team, Gonzalez was part of the panel that reviewed nominations for teachers deserving of the award.

“Reading their stories was so inspiring to me,” Gonzalez said. “It makes me grateful for the position SVSU has put me in with my student teaching and field work opportunities.”

Currently teaching math in a 7th grade classroom, Gonzalez said she felt at home and supported in her student teaching placement.

“I'm happy to be in Detroit,” she said. “Teaching these students has been a real learning experience. Predictably, the most difficult part is finding my footing with classroom management, but I always have people that I can go to at any time. I'm doing it and I'm loving it more every day.”