Cynthia Gonzalez

To many of her students, Cynthia Gonzalez is more than just a phenomenal social studies teacher. She’s their second mom.

Incredibly, it’s what more than a few of her students at Escuela Verde have actually told her.

Born in Mexico, Cynthia was interested in psychology as a teenager. And she brings that desire to understand students to her classroom. It’s particularly important at a school like Escuela Verde that has a Latino majority – with many facing serious struggles beyond language barriers.

As she explains, “Representation matters in education. So when you have someone who looks like them, talks like them, knows the area…it’s like saying you can do this too, no matter what you’re going through.”

Cynthia finds joy in helping teenagers overcome their challenges. She points to a student who came from Guatemala seeking asylum. “She doesn’t come in here looking for us to be sorry or sad,” Cynthia recalls. “She’s like, ‘What do I need to do? What do I need to learn?’ So the resiliency of our students is amazing. The struggle is real, but they also want to do work.”

She mentions another student who opened her eyes to the powerful impact she can have on young lives. “He was ready to give up and we were sharing about things…and he was like, ‘It’s the first time that I felt that any teacher was listening to me.’ And then he just started crying. You have no idea what impact you make until they tell you these stories.”

Cynthia says building those relationships is the most rewarding thing about being a teacher. Even relationships that grow between the students themselves. “It makes me smile,” she says. “The way they talk to each other and bringing each other up is amazing.”

Her advice to anyone who is on the fence about becoming a teacher? “I would say do it. Money can’t buy the happiness that you would feel being in that classroom,” Cynthia says. “You just can’t buy that.”