Brenda Gonzalez Story: EMU Alumni Inspired to Teach Because of Humble Beginnings and Caring Educators
By Rachel Renou, COE Grad Assistant | Published October 22, 2019
Brenda Gonzalez reads to her class.
YPSILANTI - As a migrant child in Texas, Brenda Gonzalez, an EMU alumna, recalled rarely starting or finishing the school year in the same place. Her family was accustomed to traveling where there was work even if that meant moving across the country. When Gonzalez came to Michigan, she was warmly welcomed by her summer school teachers. They embraced her bilingual needs. Her school in Michigan, specifically for migrant children, was designed to provide an appropriate education without ignoring their cultural identity. Gonzalez remembers that “these teachers were such great motivators that I too wanted to be the motivation for others like me.”
She pursued her dream of becoming a teacher by coming to Eastern. The faculty and fellow students strengthened Gonzalez’s passion for learning and helped her achieve her goal. In 2006 she graduated from the College of Education with 3 minors; Reading, Science, and Bilingual Education. Shortly after, Gonzalez returned to EMU for her masters in the Social Foundations of Education. While completing her masters, Dr. Ramsey her advisor and professor in Teacher Education heard Gonzalez’s unique story and encouraged her to share it with others. Although hesitant to pursue writing at first, Gonzalez agreed that her story could positively impact others, and began writing what is now her first published book; Mis Aventuras. Dr. Ramsey believed in Gonzalez and motivated her to finish the book. With an encouraging mentor by her side, she was able to bring her story to life. She used the book as her master’s culminating project, but she had a deeper purpose behind writing this children’s book.
“Throughout my studies, I always read the sorrowful side of being a migrant child, story after story, all melancholy. Because of my family's strong roots and encouraging teachers; I never thought of my upbringing to be so dismal. My story focused on a migrant child's adventures in a more positive and uplifting way through a migrant child's eyes. What better eyes to see this story through but my own and my brother Javier Flores; he is the illustrator (also an EMU graduate).”
The Ypsilanti area provided Gonzalez with so much support growing up and in college, that she decided to stay here, teach, and continue impacting the community that she describes as fun and diverse. Currently, Gonzalez is a Spanish Immersion Kindergarten/1st grade teacher at Bishop Elementary in the Lincoln Consolidated Schools. As a teacher, she works hard to help both native English Speakers and Spanish speakers learn to be fluent in both languages. The school’s Spanish Immersion program teaches kids the benefits of bilingualism and how to foster one’s native language. Mis Aventuras also became a great avenue for Gonzalez to collaborate with other teachers to highlight National Farm Workers Awareness Week, take some of her bilingual students to Madrid Spain, and then have a group of Spanish students visit Bishop Elementary. Even outside of the classroom she is inspiring today’s youth by visiting migrant camps to share her positive story.
Brenda Gonzalez poses with storybooks in her classroom.
Helping students learn, overcome challenges, and feel cared for has not gone unnoticed. As a way to show appreciation for local teachers, General Motors asked excellent teachers from Southeast Michigan if they would come to make a commercial celebrating teachers in order to promote their teacher discount on new cars. Gonzalez was selected as a passionate educator to speak about why she became a teacher. Little did she know, GM had a larger plan and surprise for her while she filmed. Once on camera, she was shown a video of her past students saying thank you to her and expressing heartfelt gratitude for the ways she made them feel special each and every day. At the end of the video the students, who were hiding off-camera, ran into the room where Gonzalez was sitting, to give her a big group hug. Gonzalez was shocked and overwhelmed with joy, “after all the hard work it is great to know that we truly do make a difference” (Gonzalez).
Eastern Michigan University’s College of Education is also grateful to be a part of Ms. Gonzalez’s story and appreciate that pivotal moment when she decided to share her story. Today, many students are being impacted by her dedication to helping improve the community and embrace their culture. It is with the active engagement of the faculty and staff that the College of Education will continue inspiring and mentoring more future teachers in their own adventures.
About The College of Education at Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, The College of Education (COE) at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) continues to be one of the largest producers of educational personnel in the nation. The COE includes a comprehensive variety of programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral program level. Non-degree and certifications are also offered through the COE as well. The COE includes departments for teacher education, special education, and leadership & counseling. All of the professional education programs offered by EMU’s COE are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and are also approved by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The graduates the EMU produces are highly desired in the field, due to the strong reputation the COE has earned throughout their many established years. The COE has been recognized for its strong success rate by U.S. News and World Report’s: America’s Best Colleges.