JoEtta Gonzales

As the Director of the Equity Alliance at ASU, JoEtta designs and delivers individualized, comprehensive, and systemic support for school districts in the form of leadership training, collaboration, coaching and capacity building.  With a blend of humor, sensitivity, and professional insight, she uses her passion and first-hand experience to help individuals develop  and use an equity lens for decision-making related to student achievement.  A talented speaker and workshop leader, she has worked with school systems across the United States in addressing issues of equity.

Dear School District,

Sending my daughter off to school for the first time will be a bittersweet experience.  I should be good at this by now, right? I’ve seen her off to kindergarten, middle school, high school – heck, I’ve even had the opportunity to walk her to her first class when she started her studies at the university.  Each time she started school she came home more intelligent, spirited, and slightly saucier.

And yet, sending her off to work in your district as a teacher leaves me compelled to share a few things with you.  I want you to know who she is and understand the kind of teacher she wants to be.

That intensity she has? You know, the desire to do the right things for people whether or not others know about it? She gets that from her Dad. She comes by her love of helping others in an honest way. From him she has learned to approach her work with energy and focus.  He has also taught her the importance of truly knowing the cultural backgrounds of each of her students, and consistently beginning her lessons with what students already know from their home, community and school.  Living vicariously through her Dad’s experiences with formal education, she has also learned to set high expectations for all of her students in order to ensure they each get a first class education full of rigor and opportunity.

As for her tendency to be dramatic, creative and somewhat goofy? Those traits are from me.  By spending time with me she has learned to ‘facilitate’ learning rather than become a dispenser of information; she has also learned to use culturally connected instructional approaches such as storytelling, song, rhythm, imagery, and movement to reach her students. Her ability to cultivate a sense of community within the classroom comes from me as well. As the oldest of our daughters, she has learned to foster a sense of belonging and elicit the opinions of others in decision-making. In her future classroom, which will represent a new type of family unit, she will no doubt be successful in building connectedness and understanding among her students.

My daughter is deeply compassionate and wears her emotions on her sleeve. That’s all her. Her heart, her kindness, her love for children (especially those that others find tough to teach), and her wonderful exuberance have all developed over time.  These qualities will serve her students and your school district well as she strives to engage all students in meaningful learning opportunities throughout each lesson she teaches. She will work to create a warm, inviting, and inclusive classroom climate that supports the development of every child she teaches because that represents exactly who she is.

I want you to know, in sending my daughter off to work in your district; I am both excited and apprehensive. I am delighted she has found her calling, and can now call your district home. But I am nervous about her getting the support she needs as a first year teacher. I believe she has the capacity to be a leader, but I know she will need consistent mentoring and coaching in order to reach her potential. I see her desire to help you embed the principles of equity – access, participation and outcomes – into your policies and practices, but recognize she will need strong leadership to set the tone for establishing a vision of collaboration and inquiry.  I see her limitless potential, but want you to make smart choices about the ongoing, job-embedded professional learning opportunities you offer her.

I know you have good intentions, and on the surface, the choice to support my daughter is an easy one. After all, who would not prefer to embolden a first year teacher rather than allow her to flounder? But at the end of the day, your actions will provide the truest answers.  I believe my daughter has a gift for working with and teaching young children that will one day represent a greatness that is worthy of attention and praise.  My greatest hope is that you will expect her to dream big and to dust herself off when she falls – just like she will do for her students.

My trust is in you to inspire, empower, and support her. For this I will be eternally grateful.


Emilia’s Mom

Editor’s Note: Emilia is graduating from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in May of 2012.

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10 Responses to “Letter to a School District: Please Inspire, Empower, and Support my Daughter by JoEtta Gonzales”

  1. Lisa Lacy on 4/18/12 5:58 PM US/Eastern

    Thank you for sharing your intimate feelings about your daughter, and the type of teacher she wants to become.


  2. Judith on 4/18/12 7:48 PM US/Eastern

    I so much appreciate your passion for helping Emilia become a culturally responsive teacher as she embarks on her career. This is a topic that is particularly important to me, as I manage the 4-year induction and support program for new teachers at our state department of education. New teachers are so overwhelmed with their numerous responsibilities that I fear many of them do not prioritize the need to become culturally responsive. I would love to hear from other educators who have had success in providing this type of support.

  3. Stephanie Bucholz (Avelar) on 4/18/12 11:24 PM US/Eastern

    Wow, this was awesome! Your daughter certainly has a wonderful foundation no matter what her path might be. She will be a wonderful educator and will continue to make the two of you very proud.

    All the best in her new adventures!

  4. Eileen Marfe on 4/18/12 11:40 PM US/Eastern

    Wow, Joetta! Wasn’t Emilia just in my preschool classroom? Wow. :)

  5. Bradley Scott on 4/19/12 11:28 AM US/Eastern


    What a wonderful and compelling letter. Thank you once again for showing your compassion, your intense concern for what is right and the clairty of your thoughts and feelings. I hope you are well and that life treats you with all the grace and good fortune you deserve. My thoughts are with your daughter and her success.

    Bradley Scott

  6. Larry Williams on 4/19/12 11:29 AM US/Eastern

    First, congratulations to your daughter for completing her studies. As many can attest, college is tough and requires many sacrifices along the way. Secondly thank you for her choice to make the journey. It is my opinion and my experience that teachers do not receive the praise they deserve, especially the good ones.

    I would also like to send a thank you to you and her father, parenting is tough. When a child does well and goes on to become a good adult it is not chance, it is directly influenced by good parents, and role models.

  7. David Hernandez-Saca on 4/19/12 6:40 PM US/Eastern

    Dear JoEtta,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful letter with us. I believe that your letter to your school district is truly is an act of culturally responsive and in my book inclusive philosophy. Coming from a mother’s perspective your letter reminds me that we all have mother’s and parents out there that love us very much and want us to do our very best for not only ourselves but for those we interact with and build relationships with out in the professional world.

    You heartfelt letter encourages a culture within our educational system that is truly inclusive.

    Best, David

  8. JoEtta on 4/19/12 10:29 PM US/Eastern

    Thanks David and Lisa for the kind words. My blog truly is a reflection of my thoughts and hopes for all first year teachers in every school district across our country. It echoes the sentiment, “if you don’t feed the teachers, they’ll eat the children” – a quote I heard many years ago and try to live by.

  9. paper writers on 9/18/17 8:49 AM US/Eastern

    I must say that I support you in this case. You are completely right. So, thank you for informing about it. Take care.

  10. on 2/25/18 5:22 PM US/Eastern

    I hope you will be heard, you will be happy with your daughter, good luck, you will succeed

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