"I’m honored and thankful to Dalton State for recognizing me, and to this district more than anything.”
Miguel Gonzalez was selected as the Northwest Georgia 2019 Mentor Teacher of the Year by Georgia's P-20 Collaborative. Gonzalez, who teaches English in the Newcomer Academy at Morris Innovative High School, was selected for this honor for his work with Dalton State's English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher candidates over the years, as well as his mentorship of his current student teacher.
Gonzalez said he decided he wanted to be a teacher in the seventh grade as a student at Dalton Middle School, and never looked back.
"I had Carol Satterfield, she still teaches at Dalton Middle School," Gonzalez said. "I saw her really take care of me and my older brother outside of the classroom, that's when I said, okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Caring for students both inside and outside of the classroom is a trait Gonzalez tries to model in his own classroom. He may teach English, but Gonzalez said he also teaches his students life lessons.
"If I had to choose between teaching [my students] life lessons and teaching them grammar, I'll always choose teaching life lessons," Gonzalez said. "I tell that to all my student teachers, even if they just come in to observe, you have to get to know your students."
Gonzalez makes an effort to show any student teachers coming into his classroom the importance of getting to know their students. He said that if you're aware of the emotional well-being of students, it'll be easier to help them in the classroom.
"I try to help all my teachers understand that if a child is struggling, there's usually something else going on behind that," Gonzalez said. "What's going on at home is probably more important than what's going on here. If they don't have people supporting them at home, then that's where the learning stops. You have to be aware of the students' needs outside the classroom."
In the nomination form, Dr. Sharon Hixon, dean of the school of education at Dalton State, remembered a teacher candidate who was struggling in the field.
"Through a collaboration with DPS and Dalton State, we looked for the best teaching situation for our candidate who spoke English as a Second Language," Hixon said. "Where could she teach with a mentor who would understand that her English language skills should not preclude her from becoming a teacher? Was there a mentor teacher in the system who could help her gain back her confidence, learn English, and become a successful teacher? He agreed to take her into his class. Through his nurturing and coaching, he held her to high expectations while allowing her to develop confidence and teaching skill. She is now a shining star in her student teaching semester."
Gonzalez said receiving this award is an honor. He said recognitions like this one bring him back to a time before he was a teacher, and still dreaming of becoming one someday.
"Any time something like this happens, I just can't help but to be reminded of all those times when I didn't see this ever happening for me," Gonzalez said. "I'm honored and thankful to Dalton State for recognizing me, and to this district more than anything."
Gonzalez is one of nine teachers selected from each of Georgia's P-20 Regional Collaboratives. The award is co-sponsored by the Georgia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (GACTE), Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL), and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). On November 21st , one of the awardees will be named the State Mentor Teacher of the Year.