By: Dezaray Barr
Justine Gonzalez visited Indiana Wesleyan University’s campus when she was just a junior in high school. At the time, she did not even know what the Wesleyan denomination was. “I knew during that first visit though that IWU was a special place,” she shared.
Gonzalez was a first-generation college student paying for her own education. “I wanted to graduate early, but I always found time for things like intramurals and visits to McConn,” Gonzalez said. “I worked in the Admissions Office as a way to make extra money.”
She graduated in December of 2006 with a degree in Elementary Education. “I liked that Indiana Wesleyan provided a rich experience with multiple practicums and the opportunity to student teach in Indianapolis Public Schools,” she said. “Visiting the campus just affirmed and complemented my decision to attend there.”
After graduating from IWU, Gonzalez served as a teacher and instructional coach in Indianapolis Public Schools, and she went on to serve as an administrator in Chicago Public Schools.
Gonzalez recently launched Educator Aide, a company that supports schools in optimizing their cultures. “I am partnering with a company called The 6 Stages Group, and we are very excited to help others better connect, collaborate and create,” she explained. “I really believe that as educators, if we better understood how our teammates work, how our students learn and how to collaborate with parents and community members to be solutions-oriented, we could be much more successful.”
Gonzalez also serves as a founding board member for The MILA Foundation, which is a faith-based nonprofit organization that supports infants and children in critical care.
Although Gonzalez is succeeding rapidly, it hasn’t always been easy. “On a little deeper level, my walk with Christ is the ONLY reason I remained in education,” Gonzalez explained. “My first year in the classroom, one of my second-grade students was murdered and I really struggled to understand why. Even amidst those circumstances, God would not let me leave. By God’s grace, I had an incredible principal who supported me and would later be the reason I went into school leadership. I knew from that point on that impacting a child or teacher’s life – anyone you’re teaching and leading is not about you; it is about God utilizing your gifts to serve Him.”
Rick Carder, IWU’s Director of Alumni and Church Engagment said, “Justine is a young alum who has demonstrated leadership in a profound way as she leads educators on how to become more culturally aware in our diverse communities. We’re proud of her as she uses her skills to be a person of influence with educators.”
Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU, Dezaray runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.