(June 14, 2017) -- Meet Maribel Valdez Gonzalez ’13. This UTSA grad is making a difference as an educator by showing her students that everyone has the chance to change the world.
A San Antonio native, Gonzalez always aspired to become a teacher.
“That was my dream,” she said. “When I was a kid I just wanted to write on the board, but when I started to grow up I realized what a great impact teachers have on our lives. I wanted to be a positive force for others.”
Gonzalez wanted to earn a top-tier degree while staying close to her family, so she applied to UTSA and in 2009 began studying biology as an undergraduate. She immersed herself in the vibrant campus culture and diverse community, quickly finding herself at home.
As a freshman, Gonzalez also took a history course and found that it awakened her long-held passion for the field.
“As a teenager, I was fascinated by civil rights movements and I remember wanting to understand why the world is the way that it is today,” she said.
Gonzalez took a host of classes focused on different areas of history and became amazed by the different American communities and new perspectives she studied.
“I chose to switch my major to history without thinking about a career. I was thinking with my heart,” she said.
Gonzalez graduated with a degree in history in 2013 and for a time worked at The Culinary Institute of America, where she supported culinary students by tutoring them and helping to organize workshops, while also working as an activist and community organizer. She ultimately became a teacher through the program Texas Teachers and now teaches English at Armando Leal Jr. Middle School in Harlandale.
She credits her former professors, Lilliana Saldaña of the UTSA College of Education and Human Development and Rhonda Gonzales of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, with shaping who she is today, especially as a teacher.
“It was a privilege to be their student,” Gonzalez said. “I learned a lot about reaching out to students because of them, but I also remember their depth of knowledge and their support.”
Gonzalez’s life took a unique turn in 2016 when her close friend, photographer Arlene Mejorado, photographed her as part of an art piece documenting Mejorado’s mother’s immigration story. In November of that year, artist Shepard Fairey commissioned Mejorado to submit photographic portraits of people for what would become his “We The People” series of protest posters. With Gonzalez’s permission, Mejorado submitted her portrait.
“I had no idea what she was asking me. I was just supporting her,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t released until just before the inauguration. She told me I had been chosen and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great.’”
Soon, Gonzalez’s face was everywhere as a symbol of strong Mexican-American women.
“It’s very humbling and I try to be humble about it,” she said. “It’s not just me. It represents my community, so it’s humbling that my face represents a community that’s had to overcome a lot of traumas and policies that have targeted us.”
Some of Gonzalez’s students are aware of the poster, having discovered on their own that their teacher has become a powerful symbol for marginalized groups. She uses it as a tool to show them that anyone can make a difference to enact change.
“I still get insecure at times,” she said. “Then I look up and see the courage and bravery in that photo and I see all the best qualities of myself. It’s a reminder that I have to persevere.”
Successful first-year students at UTSA are those who learn how to utilize resources, recognize and resolve problems, and prepare themselves to take advantage of their time on campus. The Student Success Series promotes this achievement by offering workshops on the common concerns and questions first-year students have during their transition to university life.University Center Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
Come show your Roadrunner Spirit by joining our very own Rowdy, The Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band (SOSA), your fellow students, faculty and staff as we light the Monument at our Main Campus entrance at the stroke of midnight to mark the start of a new academic year.John Peace Blvd. entrance, Main Campus
Join President Eighmy for this celebration to kick off the new school year. The event will feature live musical performances and a free BBQ dinner.Convocation Center Lawn, Main Campus
Join fellow Roadrunners on the Downtown Campus for this free BBQ dinner.Bill Miller Plaza, Downtown Campus
New and returning graduate students are encouraged to stop by before going to class to learn more about what UTSA has to offer, participate in fun activities, listen to music, connect with peers and enjoy refreshments.Bill Miller Plaza, Downtown Campus
Students are invited to attend the Fraternity|Sorority Life Informational Sessions and Mix & Mingle. This is an opportunity for students to meet-and-greet members of the Fraternity/Sorority Life community, and get together with your new Roadrunner friends.UC Travis and Harris Rooms (HUC 2.202 and HUC 2.212) then UC Lawn, Main Campus
Find out what the Downtown Library has to offer. Stop by to enjoy refreshments and learn more about your library. It’s a great place to study, use computers, work on group projects, or to get help finding material on your research topic. Welcoming staff and a pleasant setting make the library a terrific resource for students.Buena Vista Street Building, 2nd floor, Downtown Campus
Get to know your UTSA student athletes for football, volleyball, soccer, and cross country. Howdy Rowdy Bash is when we get excited for upcoming athletic events with games, cheers and giveaways. The event ends with a live music performance. Join UTSA Athletics, Rowdy Crew and Roadrunner Productions for night of fun in the Convo.Convocation Center, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas,the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
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