BGHS drama teacher rises to head of the class
The 2016 Educator of the Year award was presented to Dr. Jo Beth Gonzalez on Monday, May 2 during Teacher Educator Capstone Day. For the past 22 years, she has worked as an educator at Bowling Green High School. In addition to her teaching, she is a published author of multiple books that explore theatre education. The award was presented by Dr. Dawn Shinew, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
“Dr. JoBeth Gonzalez epitomizes the qualities we look for in our Educator of the Year," said Shinew. "She is passionate, student-centered and dedicated. I’m honored to have an opportunity to highlight her good work, and grateful for the difference she makes in the lives of her students.”
The Educator of the Year Award was created to recognize a Bowling Green State University graduate for excellence in the field of education. Teachers and administrators who hold current licensure in any area of PreK-12 education or administration, and are actively working full time in the field are eligible for nomination. Members of the selection panel included the dean of the College and members of the EDHD Leadership Council.
Gonzalez was nominated by Matt Webb, director in the Student and Academic Services Office of the College of Education and Human Development, whose daughters were taught by Gonzalez at BGHS.
Her journey at BGSU began while on a campus visit with her parents. She had narrowed her choices down to Kent State and BGSU but knew she wanted to go away from her hometown of Hudson, Ohio. During the campus visit, she discovered she could take theatre classes and her mind was set on BGSU.
She graduated with a degree in education, but never really planned on going into teaching as a career. “I wanted to impact the field of theatre somehow, and I loved children’s theatre,” said Gonzalez. During her junior year she faced uncertainty, but found support in her future husband and Falcon flame. “He encouraged me to earn my teaching certificate as a back-up. I applied and completed the teaching program with more than a tad of resignation.”
Gonzalez might be a confident, accomplished teacher now but she remembers how hard it is starting out in the field.
“My first seven years of teaching were very hard, but what I’ve discovered over the years is that my teaching certificate has been my ticket to accomplishing everything career-wise I’ve hoped for.”
A career move took her and her husband to Texas where she took on a teaching position at a high school. But after her daughter was born, the couple decided to move back to Ohio and landed again in Bowling Green. As fate would have it, a job opened up at Bowling Green High School shortly after her return.
“BGSU, at the time, offered little in the way of performance facilities – just a classroom with a few stage lights and a depreciating junior high auditorium," Gonzalez said. "I was going to teach public speaking, sophomore English and only a couple theatre classes. So here I was – no facilities and teaching English. I promised Eric Myers (BGHS principal at the time) that I would stick it out for three years. I’ve been there for 22 years!”
In addition to her new position at the high school, she returned to BGSU to pursue a doctorate degree. Gonzalez soon began her studies and found ways to apply the skills from her education to her students.
“I realized that my Ph.D. classes were feeding me with rich material that I could integrate into the classes I was teaching at the high school,” remarked Gonzalez. “When it came time to choose a topic for my dissertation, I oriented it toward my drama students and examined the nontraditional approaches to staging that I was beginning to explore with them,” she said.
She also credits her Ph.D. program with teaching her how to write for scholarly publications, which encouraged her to pen her own books.
When notified of winning the Educator of the Year Award, Gonzalez said she “felt truly honored, and was surprised, quite frankly. I knew that I would have strong competition.”
Throughout her years spent as an educator Gonzalez has held many additional roles as a teaching artist, artistic director and published author to name a few. “Most importantly, though, I work with teenagers every day whose enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, sensitivity toward others and growing awareness of the world around them inspires me to be my best – for them.”
She notes some of the most gratifying moments she has had as an educator thus far. “I’m especially proud when students successfully tackle challenging projects due to very hard work, commitment and dedication,” she said. “I’m also proud when I see that the pedagogical models that I believe are in the best interest of students’ education are incorporated into other teachers’ methodologies.”
It is clear Gonzalez believes in producing quality educators that inspire students. She states, “good teachers impact students throughout their lives, they model fairness, push students beyond their perceived limits, help students develop self-confidence, and guide students to explore their passions.” She also added, “good teachers serve as anchors in the turbulent lives of many young people, whose home lives can be complicated by difficult family dynamics, economic challenges, health issues, transportation needs and many more.”
As part of her award, Gonzalez delivered a keynote address at the spring Teacher Educator Capstone Day in front of almost 300 teacher candidates. In addition to the recognition, she received a $1,000 award to be used for professional development opportunities or classroom supplies. All three finalists are also invited to participate in an alumni panel during the event.