The Sounds of GU Podcast
with Young Alumni Michael Gonzalez
Hybrid Schooling and Professors that Pray for you
Q: Hello, welcome to the podcast!
A: Hello Sid!
Q: How are you?
A: I’m good! I’m good! Changing atmosphere currently. Being inside at a desk all day kinda stinks. So, I decided to come outside into nature, somewhat. But, I’m good! I’m good!
Q: So the birds chirping, that will be a nice background for this.
A: Yeah, this is nothing artificial. Right now, my neighbor just stopped mowing his law so just in time. Hopefully nobody starts mowing their lawn.
Q: That’s perfect! We will cross our fingers! I am just going to start by asking you to introduce yourself. This is Michael Gonzalez. But, if you just want to tell us about who you are and your connection to Greenville.
A: As Sidney said, my name’s Micheal Gonzalez, better known as Gonzo on campus and basically anywhere else in the world I think, but yeah so I graduated from Greenville this past year not without a ceremony, but I got my degree. It came a little folded, but it's okay. I got the paper. But yeah, I’m a graduate of 2020. Born in the city of Chicago.
Q: Do you know your enneagram type?
A: I took it twice, and I got a 2. What’s a two?
Q: The helper!
A: Yes, okay! And don’t you get two numbers?
Q: You can get a wing. I’m right in the middle. I share a lot of one and I share a lot of three as well. You could be a wing one or a wing three as well.
A: I don’t remember what they other was, but I’m for sure a 2. I remember that one. We like helping then.
Q: Go twos! Twos unite! Do you have any interesting facts or hobbies?
A: Right now, not really. I recently posted on Instagram a couple days ago that I actually like reading. That’s something I discovered recently during this quarantine and with everything closing. There’s not much to do beside Netflix and I don’t want to be watching Netflix all day. So I actually read a large amount. Obviously you get books in high school and they are not as interesting as you would hope. In college, I had to read for class purposes. Now I get to choose the books, so I think I’m 3 or 4 books this summer, and I’m reading 2 currently. So, I guess that’s my hobby. It’s kind of boring.
Q: No, that’s awesome! What two are you reading right now?
A: Ones called, “For the White Folks Who Teach in the Hood,” and it’s about urban education as I accepted a job in Chicago Public Schools, so I need as much preparation in urban public schools as possible. The other one is a book recommendation by Kate Aurthur on the girl soccer team. She recommended, “Tales for Many Rivers,” I think that’s the name of it. It’s basically hispanic or immigration through poetry. It’s kind of neat. It’s the history of hispanic immigration in the US. It’s really cool. It’s interesting. I've barely started. I think I’m 15 pages into each. I’m trying to keep at the same pace so I can finish them both at the same time.
Q: Wow! Props to you for being able to read two books at the same time. I cannot do that.
A: It is hard; I’ll give you that. At the same time, you read so much that as soon as you get tired of one book you just pick up the other one. That’s how I take it at least. But then, at a certain point, it’s like okay, I’m done for today. Too much reading. Back to Netflix.
Q: I love the hobby! I’m going to be an English teacher so literature is up my ally. Let’s flashback to when you chose your major. You talked a little bit about education, but do you want to expand on that?
A: Yeah, so it all started in 1997, no I’m just kidding. It actually started mid-semester my freshman year in 2016. So when I started out at Greenville in 2016, wow I feel old, I went in and declared as a business major and digital media minor. My idea was to work for a professional sports team. Have the luxury of the suites, getting to meet the players, this was my mindset. Then, during Richard Huston’s class, if he hears this, I’m sorry Dr. Huston, during core 101 which is now UNIV 101, I kind of dozed off a little bit. Not that I doze off all the time, but I did that time. I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and the idea of education came to mind because I started thinking of past teachers that I’ve had. Alright, who was the coolest teacher that I’ve had up to this point? And the first one that came to mind was my Spanish teacher. Then, I started thinking, wait a minute, this guy’s Irish. He’s a Spanish teacher! That’s crazy. I’m Mexican-American, I know Spanish already, like I can do this! Sure enough, I had his number, so I texted him that day and I got to call him before soccer practice. We talked for a good 30 or 45 minutes and I told him everything about what I was feeling and thinking. He said do it. You’d be perfect. You’re background, you know the language already, you’d be perfect. So, sure enough, I did, I got in contact with Dr. Reinhard and we got the ball rolling. That’s how I got into Education. Mainly for the purpose of impacting lives. Going into business, I knew that I would impact lives, but if I do impact one person it would be the CEO, because if I sell more than he’s going to profit more. If I get into education, then I can really impact many lives that really need it. It’s all going well, so far. I got a job here in Chicago and it’s in a neighborhood that it’s much needed. It’s a lot of hispanic demographics and I’m super excited because that’s me!
Q: That’s awesome. You bring up the teacher that you had in high school, which is a pretty common thing if you want to be a teacher to have a teacher that you really look up to. What was that like for you? That’s so interesting that thought maybe education and then you thought of that teacher. That’s really cool. So, you mentioned soccer, but what other things were you involved in on campus because I know there were a couple other things?
A: A few other things. Freshman year spring, I got a job, thanks to Marcos Gilmore, to be an academic coach. Then, that job led to another job to be a TA (teaching assistant) for Marcos Gilmore, again, for his core 101 class. My sophomore year, I started to get more involved in Mosaic student association, little by little, not a lot. And then, junior year came and that was the explosion of me saying yes to everything and no to nothing. That year, I started still as an academic coach, still the TA for Marcos, I obviously still played soccer, which is the reason why I went to Greenville. Then, I became the president of Mosaic. I was an RC, or what’s now an RA. I taught in the English intensive program, University Pathways, during my schedule breaks, was an English teacher back then. I think that’s about it. If my memory serves me right. So, I was a lot of things. I had a really full plate. But, I’ll tell you what, during these times, I kind of miss it. Just sitting at your computer is just not the same as having a meeting in jos in five minutes and running there and being late and this and that. It’s something I truly miss.
Q: You miss being late to stuff!?
A: Absolutely! Greenville being such a small campus you’ll be there in 5 minutes. Then in 2 minutes you’re like, “Ahh I can run,” or “It won’t be a big deal.”
Q: And then you run into somebody on your way over.
A: Yeah, and you start a quick conversation until you’re like, “Oh, I gotta go. I have class. Sorry!”
Q: Speaking of class, what was your favorite one that you had throughout your four years?
A: That question is tough. I don’t know. I do know, but I don’t know if it’s one particular favorite one. I have terrible memory, so it’s kind of hard to remember what I did freshman year. I pulled up my transcript a couple days ago and was like, did I really take this class? I forgot I took it. But, the most memorable one that comes to mind is the one I took this past fall. It was a Spanish class that we took for Don Quijote [de La Macha.] Which, if you don’t know, it’s a really hard book to read. Super old book, super thick book. It’s just very complicated. I took it because I needed it. He’s [Dr. Brian Reinhard] like, “It’s gonna be fun. Come on!” He’s my advisor also, so I had to be on his good side. So, I signed up for it and the first thing he said when we got to class was that it was going to be a play. I was like, “What? I’m not an actor here!” But then I started thinking it’s just going to be in class, not a big deal. It’s just going to be classmates who watch. But this man went above and beyond and a couple weeks later he came in and said, “I’ve been talking to the art teacher and they are going to be making costumes and props…” and this and that. And then he hit us with the, “Oh, I forgot I talked to the guys at the factory theatre and we are going to be opening this up to the community.” I was like… I told him I was going to drop your class. Because now it’s a bigger thing. It’s not just the class, we are opening it to the community? I don’t want to do this. All along we were reading the book and understanding it because we had to write the script for it. We had to take this very complex text and write into a more modern version that we can perform. Think about it, it’s pretty crazy. And still practice. We had a couple rehearsals at the factory theatre. The day came and we did it! It was great. Aside from me getting over my discomfort of performing in front of people as an actor, I actually understood the book. That was one of the coolest things. Going to be a Spanish teacher I could see that it’s not just about the grammar and boring stuff to actually understand the language there’s more behind it. There was a purpose behind it. So yeah, that class was cool. Nothing against Dr. Nava, he’s awesome. But that class was really cool. Again, I didn’t like it at first but once I got over the acting I actually understood the book thanks to his class.
Q: Wow, that’s a lot to finish. To read the book, rewrite it, practice, and perform that’s a lot of work in one semester.
A: Yeah, but it was cool.
Q: What made you stick with it? You mentioned you were about to drop out. What motivated you to keep going?
A: I think the respect I have for Dr. Reinhard. He was super excited for it. He put so much work into it. If I would have been done it maybe would have encouraged others to drop it. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m happy. I don’t regret it. It probably was that. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I’m glad I did it. I even said it at the end of the play we had a little Q & A and I said it was an awesome experience.” I hope he continues doing it.
Q: What’s your relationship like with Dr. Reinhard?
A: It’s great. You know, that’s the thing about Greenville. You know this. The relationships you build its what you take away. Yes, you get a degree, right? Yes, you get a paper that says you have your bachelors and what not. But, I have the paper hanging, cool, But it’s the text messages you get every day, every other day from people from Greenville. “Hey, how are you doing? Just checking in. Have you found a job? What can I help you with?” Those things are the ones I cherish more. So, with Reinhard, it was great. I actually was the first student to do the Chicago semester, which I highly encourage you to do it for your student teaching which is basically living in Chicago for a semester and teaching in Chicago public schools to complete your student teaching. During the whole process, Dr. Reinhard was super supportive as also Dr. Lisa Amundson, Dr. Larissa Malone, Dr. Kathy Taylor. They were all invested in getting me here. To the point where Dr. Reinhard actually came out here to visit. It’s crazy. I thought maybe he had a purpose to come to Chicago to maybe watch a Cubs game. He is a big Cubs fan. But no, this man drove all the way out here just to watch me teach for 45 minutes. It wasn’t even a lesson that involved a lot of me. It was more student-led. I was just walking around the groups. He sat there and he was just super happy seeing me. We went out to get lunch after class and we went to this Mexican restaurant. We sat there and talked more, and then we got in his car and he said, “Do you want me to drop you off at the train station?” I was like, “Yeah, go ahead. What are you doing now?” He was like, “I think I’m just going to go to Dick’s sporting goods and then I’m heading back.” I was like wait, you really just drove from Greenville all the way up here to watch me teach for 45 minutes, have lunch with me, drop me off at the train station, go buy sports stuff that you want, and then go back to Greenville? For 4 hours? All in one day? Wow, that meant a lot to me. It was great, the relationship I had with him. Still, he was one of my references for this job that I got in CPS. He is still checking on me and I know that we will continue talking even as years progress.
Q: That is so cool. He really cares.
A: He does. A lot of professors at Greenville really care. That’s the reality there. That’s something I can’t argue with. They’re there for that.
Q: That’s awesome! Talk a little bit about where you are now! You said you got a job, so could you talk about what that process has been like and what you have been up to this summer?
A: It’s been a crazy summer. Initially I wanted to visit a friend in California and I wanted to go to Mexico to visit family and then it happened so those plans all got canceled. But thankfully, it made me sit down and think about how I’m no longer going back to Greenville. This adult life and I need to start looking for jobs. Most of my summer that’s what it’s been. Early on, I applied to a job at a Northwest suburb of Chicago and I interviewed and really thought I was a good fit, but they didn’t go for me. No hard feelings. I’m glad because it all worked out. I really, really wanted to work in Chicago Public schools. Not only for the need, but they also offer a lot of benefits for teachers to further their education, which is something that’s important to me. That was me! Opening up the job list and start applying until I hit the job and interviewed and it worked out. Now, all I’ve been doing is taking a bunch of seminars and whatever cool names they call these things. I just sit on my computer and take a bunch of notes, because with the uncertainty going on right now are we going to reopen or are we going to do hybrid. As a first year teacher, that’s stressful. It is, but then it’s also very comforting because there’s teachers that have been teaching for 10 or 15 year and are starting from zero now because we are going into hybrid or remote learning again. It’s all on your own for learning again. It’s kinda nice, but it’s also very stressful because I have gotten to feel what it is to have my own classroom, and now I have to have my own classroom virtually. It’s just weird. That’s what most of my summer has been, securing a job and preparing for it. I know a lot of people say teachers have summers off, but this is the reality. Most teachers, I go into these webinars and seminars and there’s hundreds and hundreds of teachers on there that are trying to learn as much as they can to prepare. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one. But, it’s also the reality that it’s going to be an interesting start to the school year.
Q: So, has your school decided to go all online for the semester?
A: It’s a district decision so far. Just last week they announced their plan for Chicago public schools which is the third largest district in the nation, so it’s a pretty big deal. They decided that with the numbers we have now we are going to be doing hybrid, which is cool. I had that experience during my student teaching because halfway through the semester I had to go into remote learning. That’s the decision they have now; to go hybrid. Two days in person, two days online on the computer. It’s an option. If parents just want to do remote learning, that’s an option as well. It’s all very vague. It’s all very new. It’s not that detailed. Next week they are going to start doing community meetings where the parents can log in and express their concerns for their kids and what not, teachers as well. As of now, we are going hybrid, but they said it could change depending on how the numbers go.
Q: It’s crazy. In any moment things could change. Hybrid is a new concept that is more interesting and complicated than even just going online. Stressful!
A: Exactly, you have a plan for whatever you’re going to do in person and all these cool activities and then you gotta change some way shape or form what you were planning. It was one of the toughest things I experienced with student teaching here. It was just like, I left school on a Friday to take the train and I got the text that we are going remote learning starting Tuesday, you guys are not allowed into the building on Monday because it’s only essential people there. So I was like crap, what am I going to do? But I snuck into the building, I hope I don’t get arrested for this, but anyways, I snuck into the building, I grabbed all my stuff, everything that I needed, all my plans and basically everything on my desk. I brought it home and that’s how I finished my year. It was weird because I’d be wearing shorts and a sweatshirt and maybe a hat on. I was super casual with my kids. I wasn't in a suit and tie, just chillin.
Q: That’s funny! This question has a whole new level of complexity to it. The question is how did GU prepare you for this? But, we didn’t know this was going to happen, so I guess attempt to answer that question!
A: The biggest thing, I will say, is relationships, again. Not only between faculty and students, but in our education classes, you’ll learn that relationship is truly the key to success in education. That’s what I’m trying to set up right now. Yes, you’re here to teach a subject, but the most important thing is you’re here to teach a kid. That’s what I’ve learned at GU while I was there is to focus on the kid as a whole and not just whatever subject you’re teaching, subject-matter wise. And honestly, GU preparing me was allowing me to get to Chicago to complete my student-teaching here, because the experience I got teaching a semester at Chicago public schools, I can’t put a value to it, because I actually got to experience what it is to remotely teach in Chicago public schools. That was the biggest thing. The current times that’s been the biggest lesson I’ve learned. But overall, just being passionate about what you do. Finding your purpose. You were uniquely made to shape the world. (27) Finding that. What was it that you’re shaping? That happens through conversations and relationships. That was preparing me to continue. I know my purpose. I know what I’m going for, especially during these times. I’m going for it.
Q: Was it a whole semester in Chicago or just part of it was in Chicago?
A: It was a whole semester. I started January 16th and it ended May 1st. March 13th happened and we went to remote all semester.
Q: Talking about your college experience, is there anything that you would go back and do differently?
A: You know, as I read this question, I was like no. Maybe, but no. I went into everything knowing that I wasn't going to regret it. Knowing that it was meant to be and it was going to happen. I wouldn’t change it. Absolutely not. I’m happy where I’m at now, and obviously, I’m the man that I am today because of what I lived and experienced while at GU. So yeah, I don’t think I would change it.
Q: That’s just perfectly fine! There’s a lot of different traditions we have at Greenville. What’s your favorite?
A: I haven’t talked much about soccer, but I think one of the coolest things was when I was a freshman on the soccer team was the alumni game. Which I still get to be a part of. Not only as an alumni, but now I get to go back and kick the butts of the younger guys. The fact that during that game during my freshman year, that was the first game I actually played, and I saved the penalty kick during that game. For me, that’s special. Having the stands be packed, having dinner out there on the field, basically the whole school is there watching you, the band is playing during the whole game, the atmosphere is great, the competition is great even though you’re playing old men. Even Coach Mo got out there this past one. He only lasted like 2 minutes and then needed a water break, but he participated. Being able to see that you’re not only there for four years as a soccer player, but you’re there as a part of a tradition for many, many, many years, and you have that one thing that connects you with alum. You are a part of this family- GU men’s soccer family. That’s the coolest tradition that I’ll always be a part of, because as an alum, I’ll be back.
Q: What was it like being on a sports team? Talk about soccer.
A: It was hard. It was a good head though, don’t get me wrong. Coach Chris, I love you man. It’s nothing against soccer, but it was hard. It's very different- and you know this, you’re a basketball player- it’s different from high school. That was one of the things that hit me right away. This is at a much higher level. It’s so much more time consuming, but it’s fun. It’s all worth it and I wish I would do that again. But, that was one of the things, waking up for lifting in the morning, having to watch what you eat, having teammates that are always on you, on you, on you, roommates and teammates that you see 24/7, traveling. That was one of the bigger shocks that I had, because when I was in high school I was blessed enough that each year we did a varsity trip. My junior year we went to Minnesota and then my senior year we went to Ohio. Both of the trips were fun. We bring the xbox and stay up all night and each chips. Once I got to college, my first trip was up to Michigan to play Alma and I don’t remember what other team, and instead of bringing the xbox and snacks, everybody was bringing their book, computers, and homework. And everybody just sat there doing their homework and I was like this is completely different. This is college. These guys are going to be doctors and engineers and dentists, like this is cool! But as a freshman I was really looking forward to playing video games and staying up late, but no. That’s not possible in college. But it was super cool to be able to be a part of it. I was a person that was truly a part of it and not just saying it. I was an individual that mattered on the team. That was huge. Being able to play in the NCAA tournament my junior year, being conference champs, all of that it’s something that no one will ever be able to take that away from me. If you’re listening and you have the chance to go play college anything, do it, Yeah, it’s going to be hard. Yes, it’s going to suck. Yes, you’re going to have to wake up in the morning and go run and whatnot, but it’s something at the end of the day you’ll miss it and you won’t regret it.
Q: Hard but worth it. What’s a memory from your time at Greenville that you’ll never forget?
A: Oh, boy. Here you go with the memory stuff, Sid. I want to say soccer again. I’m not just saying it to piggy-back off what I just said last, but my junior year when we went to that national tournament, the biggest challenge was being called into save the penalty kick and having the pressure of the world basically on my shoulders. Hey man, you got this. Like I said when I spoke in chapel, on the outside I was super chill, super cool, but on the inside my heart was doing crazy. What if I don’t stop it, you know? The support that I had, one thing that I remember right before I went out to the goal, Dr. Wayman was there and I asked him, “Hey, Ben, do me a huge favor, man, Pray for me.” And sure enough, right there on the spot he prayed for me and it was a super short prayer. It was something I’ll never forget. Right after, I went out there and I was like, “I got this! It’s all going to work out.” Then later, I found out that someone on our bench, wrote on the glass, “It’s in God’s hands.” I don’t know who it was, but the picture of the team huddled up right before PK’s and then in the background it’s there it says, “It’s in God’s hands.” After that, once we were celebrating and at the restaurant, seeing that picture and thinking Ben prayed for me, it got done. That’s one of the coolest memories. Yeah, it is in God’s hands. Everything is in God’s hands, so why are we worrying about it? You gotta live life every day and whatever is going to happen is going to happen the man upstairs knows. That’s my favorite memory.
Q: That’s awesome to have a professor that will pray over you like that. That’s really special.
A: Yeah, and Ben is one of many. Dr. Faith Nava, too. There would be times where I’d be struggling in school and it would be 11 o’clock at night and she would shoot me a text, “Hey, are you okay? I was praying for you and your name came up. Can I help you with something?” This is crazy. Sure, let’s talk! The whole Nava family was huge for my years in Greenville. They were my parents away from home. That’s crazy to say that. You’re my professors. But the fact that I can say that now about who they were and they are still a huge part of me today, that’s neat.
Q: One last question. Advice for students. What one piece of advice would you give after experiencing it all?
A: This is contrary to what I was told when I was saying yes to everything my junior year, but say yes. Don’t say yes and don’t regret it. When I was saying yes, people would be like, “Are you sure you should be saying yes to this? Can you handle it? You should say no.” Which, there needs to be limits, don’t get me wrong, but my response is I’m going to do it and if I can’t then I’m obviously going to say no to something. I’m going to say yes and I’m going to try it out and see what happens. You won’t really know what’s going to happen until you do it. That was kind of like Greenville. I’m a first generation college student, and I was supposed to go to Greenville with four friends and I was the only one that went. One joined me a year later, but then left. If I would have said no, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now talking to you about my experience there. I said yes and I committed to it and said I’m not going to regret this and sure enough, here I am. Four years later, a couple pounds more, better-looking, but I’m there.
Q: Well, Gonzo, I really appreciate your story. I know we knew each other a little bit while you were here on campus and I just know you had a huge impact on this campus while you were here, so I appreciate you being on today and I’m so thankful that our paths crossed though GU. I know this is going to be helpful, inspiring and encouraging to some students out there.
A: Thank you for thinking of me. Take care!