Mrs. Gonzalez Receives the Yale Educator Award

Directing her students towards excellence, Mrs. Gonzalez is the epitome of what it means to be a true Cavalier
Ms. Gonzalez proudly stands with her Yale Educator Award. She is so grateful for this honor, which she would never have received without her Highlights family.
Ms. Gonzalez proudly stands with her Yale Educator Award. She is so grateful for this honor, which she would never have received without her Highlights family.
Kate Kuryla

After 13 years of being an educator and inspiration at Coral Gables Senior High, Mrs. Melissa Gonzalez has been recognized for her outstanding efforts. Receiving the Yale Educator Award, she was nominated by one of her previous students, Maria Jose Cestero, who is currently attending Yale University. The constant encouragement and guidance Mrs. Gonzalez has given to her students has made her worthy of the award, exemplifying the impact she has on her students.

The Yale Educator Recognition Program’s mission is to show appreciation for educators from around the world who have consistently supported and inspired their students to achieve at high levels. In the process of nominations each year, students are invited to recommend their high school educators, and the Yale admissions office selects those who are believed to be eligible. Among the 385 nominees selected to possibly receive the award across 43 states and 28 countries, only 80 teachers and 32 counselors were chosen to win the high honor, with Mrs. Gonzalez being one of them. 

Mrs. Gonzalez was deemed more than qualified for the award because of the support and inspiration she had given her students, specifically Cestero, who jumped at the opportunity to reward her former English teacher and advisor. The teacher-student duo became acquainted with one another during Cestero’s first year in Highlights where they established and grew a strong bond.

Maria Jose Cestero and Ms. Gonzalez happily hug each other during the last week of Cestero’s senior year. (Maria Jose Cestero)

Having shared a special connection, Cestero, who moved from Puerto Rico to Miami during her freshman year, was initially lost as she wandered the hallways of Gables. It was not until her sophomore year that she discovered the publication, highlights, while in her search to find ways to become involved at Gables. As a staff writer for the publication, she met Mrs. Gonzalez, and they instantly clicked. 

“During my sophomore year, highlights was on Zoom, and the first day that I introduced myself, I said my name was Maria Jose. Usually, I just say my name is Maria, because it’s much simpler. Everyone else in the Zoom started to call me Maria, except Mrs. Gonzalez. She brought attention to the fact that my name was Maria Jose, not just Maria. I was so surprised, and now looking back on that, I think that situation is so representative of who she is. She’s so caring, and she’s so passionate about what she does, which is why I thought she was the perfect nominee for this award,” Cestero said.

Maria Jose Cestero and Ms. Gonzalez take a selfie after Cestero walks off stage during her graduation ceremony. (Maria Jose Cestero)

During her junior year, Cestero was chosen to be the opinion editor of highlights, and her bond with Mrs. Gonzalez grew even stronger. Experiencing her last year at Gables as the editor-in-chief for highlights, Cestero was guided through it all with the help of Mrs. Gonzalez. From the management of the publication to her college applications, Mrs. Gonzalez became the stability that Cestero needed during her senior year. 

“I tried to advise and guide her through the highlights process, but in doing that, we ended up connecting and getting to know each other really well. We just clicked. Many of my students leave an impact on me, but specifically Maria [Cestero] has left me with something to always remember. She even reminds me of myself when I was younger, and I can see myself entirely in her. She’s just so dedicated and so sure of herself, and it makes her a truly special student. I’m so happy that I was able to make an impact on her during her little time at Gables, and I know she is going to continue to be a huge success in whatever she pursues in the future,” Mrs. Gonzalez said. 

 

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Even after Cestero going away to Yale Univeristy, she and Mrs. Gonzalez have managed to continue conversations about everyday life while also reminiscing about their nostalgic moments together.

When writing her essay to nominate Mrs. Gonzalez, Cestero was determined to portray the qualities that made her stand out as not only a teacher but as a person. In finally sending Ms. Gonzalez her essay submission for the award, Cestero strived to show Mrs. Gonzalez the long-lasting impact that she had made on her life.

“During my junior and senior year, I solely ate lunch with Mrs. Gonzalez, which is something that’s not typically done in high schools. Usually, lunch is your escape from the classroom, but me, I would always go to Mrs. Gonzalez’s class to eat with her and talk with her. She took the time to sit down with me, give me advice, and tell me stories from her past, which really made me feel comfortable with her compared to my other teachers. She was someone I could go to for support and encouragement when I needed it, and she played such a big role in my high school career,” Cestero said.

“Being able to work for highlights really pushed me to work harder and accomplish more than I ever thought I was capable of. Knowing that I had Mrs. Gonzalez’s support motivated me to continue improving the publication and pursue my love of journalism. Without her, I would have never gained confidence as a writer, let alone be attending Yale. Because of Mrs. Gonzalez and her demand for journalistic integrity, I was able to further improve my writing, and that is what got me into so many prestigious colleges,” Cestero said.

Mrs. Gonzalez holds a special place in the hearts of all her students, but especially Cestero’s. The influence Mrs. Gonzalez has had on her life is momentous, for without it, her dream of Yale may never have become a reality. Nominating her for the Yale Educator award was Cestero’s small way of saying “thank you”.

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About the Contributors
Kate Kuryla, CavsConnect Staff Writer
Kate Kuryla is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program who is excited to return to Cavsconnect for her second year as a staff writer. Aiming to improve since her previous year as a freshman, Kuryla is entering sophomore year with a new mindset. This past summer she was rarely home, as she was traveling to Scandinavia, Turkey and Italy. She definitely came back from her trip part Italian. She loves to try all kinds of food and listen to all types of music, but her favorite artist has to be Lana Del Rey. She hopes that maybe one day Del Rey will come to Miami on tour. When Kate is not doing schoolwork or with her friends and family, you can find her curled up in bed sleeping. She dreams of moving to New York City one day and have a cat to keep her company. Kate does not know what she will major in yet, but she believes it will be either in the medical field or law studies. She’s very indecisive. Hopefully sophomore year will guide her on the right path to success.

Yara Korse, CavsConnect Staff Writer
Yara Korse is trying her best to cruise through her second year of high school in the International Baccalaureate program. Even with all the activities she does in school, she still finds a way to keep up her 4.0 Grade Point Average. She is part of the cross country, track and field and tennis team. She is part of a few clubs in school including the International Baccalaureate Honor Society and Gables Wellness. Her solution to getting through high school is to listen to music whenever she can. She also loves to read fiction books; her favorite book series is "Percy Jackson". She wants to leave Florida when she gets out of high school and live in the Netherlands at one point in her life. When she is not drowning in the large amount of work that her amazing school gives to her, she is doing puzzles or annoying her little brother.
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