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Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez began her first term on the State Board of Education (SBE) in March. The elementary school teacher, a member of Montebello Teachers Association, is excited about her new role. But mostly, she is thrilled to represent educators across California and show her students what is possible.

“I bring to the board what I think is needed — a teacher that is practicing in the classroom, and an elementary voice,” says Orozco Gonzalez, who currently teaches second grade in a predominantly Latino district. “I understand urban schools and their needs, and the interventions and accountability from assessments that help provide effective instruction to students. And more than ever, students in the state need a teacher who reflects them — a child of immigrant parents, a second language learner. I like to show students examples of people in this profession and what they can achieve.”

Orozco Gonzalez has been a role model for students for years. A master teacher and Common Core standards expert, she has presented at multiple CTA conferences.

She is a teacher leader with the Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC), a partnership of CTA, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and the National Board Resource Center at Stanford University. Using a “teachers train teachers” model, ILC grows and sustains a statewide community of educators supporting other educators.

She is a facilitator with NEA’s Ed Communities and has served on the board of CTA’s Institute for Teaching. She has written Smarter Balanced assessments and is a curriculum writer for her district.

Orozco Gonzalez answered a few questions the day before her first SBE meeting.

 

How did your appointment to the SBE come about?

I’m always interested in roles with teacher and student voice, that prioritize the needs of our community and reflect our population. When I started thinking about SBE, I wanted the board to reflect someone like my students. It was a way for them to see themselves in me.

With 22 years of teaching under my belt, leadership experience with ILC and huge projects for my district, I felt ready, so I applied.

 

Will serving on the board take you away from the classroom?

For the days I have SBE meetings my district releases me from my duties, and a sub takes my place. I will then meet with the board. It’s a huge commitment, and I’m grateful for support from my family and from my district.

But I’m not leaving teaching! I adore teaching. Over the years there have been opportunities for me to leave, but I would never leave the best job in the world. For me, teaching is a true passion project.

 

What do you hope to accomplish on the SBE?

The pandemic has been challenging, with many students in distance learning and with new curriculum. I want to help guide what comes next. I can definitely give that expertise.

I also want to be involved in professional learning for teachers and good teaching practices so we can best support students. Educators and students are surviving and thriving despite what’s been happening, so now how do we continue that with recent education budget increases? How do we use the funds for programs and interventions students really need?

 

Are you still involved with ILC?

Yes, I still lead our team in Montebello. We’re now doing a smaller ILC project, and it’s exciting to the max.

We wrote in our contract that we have a voice in our professional learning opportunities (a great bargaining win). I helped start and sit on the professional development committee in my district. So, for example, every summer we have a symposium similar to CTA’s Good Teaching Conference, where we invite our educators and share knowledge with each other. The district has really embraced this. It started at CTA, which led to ILC’s work and then to the district.

 

How do you stay energized as an educator year after year?

When Common Core was first introduced, our district hired consultants who had never taught standards. I was looking for ways to get involved in my profession and community. I learned more about the standards, found resources, and started my blog so I could teach myself. Teachers sent emails thanking me and asking for my graphic organizers and lessons. My district and CTA provided me with a forum where I could share my expertise.

This collaboration piece keeps my work fresh. Teachers are at their best when they share ideas and have opportunities to engage in meaningful lessons taught by actual practitioners. We know what’s best for our students. That’s how I stay fresh.

 

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

At baseball games! My sons Benjamin, 12, and Joaquin, 14, are active baseball players. I’m their number one fan.

My mother lives in Downey, where we live. I lost my father to the COVID-19 virus. But during the pandemic, my husband, who always liked how excited I was when I came home from work, decided to get his credential. He’s now a fourth grade teacher with LAUSD. There are always life events that happen.


The State Board of Education

The 11-member State Board of Education is California’s K-12 policymaking body for academic standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessments and accountability. It holds six two-day meetings a year. Ten members are appointed by the governor to four-year terms. The 11th member, also appointed by the governor, is a California public high school student who serves a one-year term.

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