Javier Gonzales Santa Fe Springs Lion, Whittier, California As a young immigrant to the U.S. from Mexico, Gonzales learned the value of education, believing in oneself and service at an early age. Now a high school math teacher and Pioneer Leo Club adviser, Gonzales, 51, inspires scores of young people to follow in his path. Tough Transition Coming to the U.S. when I was 9 with my family—I was one of 12 children—was exciting but difficult. We were used to a farming life and freedom to roam the countryside. In East L.A. we were confined to a one-bedroom house. At school we were ridiculed for not knowing the language and the way we dressed due to poverty. A Teacher Takes Notice It wasn’t until the ninth grade that I realized I was actually smart. Before that, I was a ghost in school with bad grades. A science teacher took an interest in me and taught me to believe in myself and that I could do anything I put my mind to. I graduated high school with honors and was the first in my family to go to college. A Magical Mentor Although I was never a student of his, Jaime Escalante [the subject of the film “Stand and Deliver”] taught at my high school and I would spend time in his classroom after school. While in college majoring in engineering, I got a summer job as a math tutor with Upward Bound, and Jaime was teaching math there too. I would sit in his classroom and observe his magic. It was then that I decided to become a math teacher, and Jaime became my mentor. Inspiring Future Teachers Twenty-five years ago I started the Jaime Escalante Summer Math Academy at Pioneer High School. Our tutors, with many Leos among them, serve 300 students every summer. My pride and joy: seeing how many of my former students and tutors go on to become teachers. Every Student Matters My classroom walls are completely filled with pictures of my students (photo). Students strive to get their photos on my wall so they can be remembered. And they are—the pictures remind me every day why I come to work and ground me on my mission in life. Was honored as the 1996 California Teacher of the Year Appointed to President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Along with his wife, Lion Gloria, leads Leos in an annual homemade tamale holiday fundraiser Do you know a Lion who you think has a great story or deserves a bit of recognition? Email us a brief description of the Lion and the reason you’re making the nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “One of Us” in the subject line.
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