Monday, September 30, 2013

A Tribute to a Teacher Who Was Much More Than Just a Teacher - Ms. Olivia Gonzales

     On Saturday, September 28, 2013, I had the honor to speak on the life of Ms. Olivia Gonzales on behalf of her students. For me it was a great honor because although she was a teacher, she was so much more. I wanted to share this with my readers and to those students who may have not had the opportunity to attend her homegoing service. No matter what school you attended, this was presented for all of us. These were words I spoke. I hope it blesses someone.
      First giving honor to God who’s the head of my life. To the pastor of Umoja Christian Church, other ministers and to Rick, Adrienne, Ramon and the entire the family of Olivia Gonzales. my love and prayers are with you. I feel honored today to speak on the life of Ms. Olivia Gonzales who not only touched my life in a special way but so many other students who crossed her path. When I heard of her passing I was absolutely crushed. As the days that followed went by, I began to reflect on the times we shared and the impact she had on my life. As an English teacher she was a stickler for speaking proper grammar. If you spoke incorrectly in her presence, Ms. G. as she was fondly called would swiftly correct you. Not only was she an English teacher but she also taught journalism. In that role, she nurtured my love for writing. As the editor of our yearbook, I remember spending countless days and nights at her house laying out the yearbooks for Crispus Attucks High School. I recall being at her house so much that I became part of her family. Yes, she claimed me as her daughter and I became a sister to her children. I’m so thankful for those lifelong bonds forged so many years ago. As students of hers, she always encouraged us. Even as adults, many of us were blessed to still receive her encouragement. I remember her excitement when I told her I was writing a novel and that I’d even named a character after her. She told me how proud she was of me and how much she loved me. I let her know how much I loved her and how she impacted my life in such a positive way.

    But the love she shared and the impact she made didn’t stop with me. As the news got out that she’d passed away I began to follow the many tributes on Facebook from former students as they poured in. Kimberly Bentley wrote, “I praise God for her life – the positivity, love, and encouragement she has been in our lives.” Shelley Ball-Pfifer shared, “I remember her fondly, we had fun laying out the yearbook. She was an inspiration and great teacher.” Damica Wilson-O’Bryant shared, “She’s the reason I majored in English. So sad.” Ric Holt wrote, “Sad to hear. I really liked her as a teacher.” He went on to say what we all knew, “She didn’t play.” Finally, Damont Nickson had this to say about Ms. Gonzales, "I gave many of my teachers..." And I'll Paraphrase this part, "a hard time. But even today I remember the teacher that faught for me. Even when it didn't make since. She just happened to attend my church and she kept me in line. She often reported me to my pastor and had meetings with the principal to figure out ways to help me. I needed that! Teachers don't always get the credit that they are due. This teacher was hard but she had a soft side and she didn't care if she did know my mother she still sent me to the office. I have come a long way and I can say without her in that classroom fighting for me and probably praying for me I would not have made it. Sometimes I sit at board tables reflecting back on how far I have come and I hear her voice in that classroom saying, Damont take life serious, people think you will never amount to anything, don't prove them right." Damont went on to say, "an angel joined heaven's choir and I have to say that she will be missed." Gina Nelson responded to Damont's remarks stating, "Well said!! Just a few typos though and I'm SURE she's trying to reach down from heaven to tell you." There were many more tributes. Way too many to mention but I’m sure you can tell that Ms. Gonzales meant the world to the many students she encountered over her decades as a teacher.

     Thinking of all she meant to her students reminded me of the words spoken by Dr. Maya Angelou when she visited Indianapolis this week. She said you have no idea how far your importance will reach in your community, your state and your country. She encouraged us to be a rainbow in the clouds. Ms. Olivia Gonzales was just that to her students. Our lives will be forever changed because she was part of it. I encourage you today and I know that Ms. Gonzales would as well, that whatever God has given you to do with your life, be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. God has a purpose for your life. Ms. Gonzales served her purpose. I have no doubt in my mind that when she met God at the gates of heaven h
He said, well done, good and faithful servant well done. Thank you and God bless you.

     Until next time, I hope you have been encouraged, empowered, enriched and enlightened.

Peace and blessings,


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