Since obtaining his higher education at Stanislaus State, Israel Gonzalez is realizing a long-held dream by making a positive impact on his community like few others have.
Gonzalez is the founding principal of Lucas Elementary Dual Language Academy in Ceres, one of the most successful dual language academies in the Central Valley and only the fourth dual language academy in Stanislaus County.
The journey to becoming a successful principal of such a distinguished school was not particularly easy. It meant overcoming poverty, racism and the lure of gangs while he was growing up, long before he earned his degrees and credentials at Stan State.
Gonzalez grew up in a migrant family that struggled with poverty. Since his family moved frequently, he was enrolled in eight different schools before the age of 10. Eventually, his family settled in a rural area just outside of Hughson.
As he grew older, Gonzalez realized he needed to make an important decision for himself and his family.
“I was either going to continue the cycle of poverty, or I had to figure out the best road to take for my future, very quickly,” Gonzalez said. “Choosing to go to college was the first step, but the experiences I had at Stan State are what changed the odds for me.”
Gonzalez admits that he had not heard of Stan State, or any four-year universities until his sophomore year of community college.
“Somehow, from my high school circles and counselors, I had only heard about junior colleges, trade schools and military options,” he said. “I am lucky to have known people that attended Modesto Junior College who mentioned Stan State as a local university with an amazing teaching program. Once there, I quickly acclimated to the culture. It was also the first time that I understood what ‘learning at the college level’ truly meant.”
In 1999, Gonzalez earned his Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in teaching English to students of other languages. Shortly after, he obtained bilingual, cross-cultural, language and academic development credentials.
Gonzalez began his career as a middle school teacher. After a few years, he felt the need to obtain a post-graduate degree, and in 2010 earned his master’s in educational technology and educational administration.
In 2012, Gonzalez leveraged his knowledge and experiences in teaching, business and administration to become the founding principal of Lucas Elementary Dual Language Academy.
Gonzalez believes dual language academies like Lucas Elementary are extremely beneficial for children and their communities.
“Learning two or more languages is not only great for communication with more people, it also provides a cognitive advantage,” he said. “The exercise of code switching from one language to the next helps the brain stay healthy and strong, providing bilingual students the ability to think and adapt quicker.”
Gonzalez said being multi-lingual also allows individuals to have a greater appreciation for other cultures and he notes that bilingual students who have gone through a dual language school tend to perform better in their secondary years than monolingual students. That’s why he is passionate about providing the opportunity for students to participate in a dual language education program in Stanislaus County, and it is something he advocates for across the state.
“I would highly recommend that all students learn another language or better yet, enroll in a dual language program and become biliterate,” he said.
Gonzalez’s work at Lucas Elementary did not stop him from furthering his own education, as he earned his doctorate with a focus on educational leadership from Stan State in 2016.
Gonzalez is proud of his long tenure at Stan State, as his experiences have continued to guide him on his journey as an educator.
“The foundation that I have built from all my experiences at Stanislaus State is solid,” Gonzalez said. “I am a proud product of Stanislaus State as all of my degrees are from the University.”
Gonzalez credits the positive atmosphere of Stan State and the abundance of student resources for helping him become the leader he is today.
“Stan State’s school culture, the professors, the students, the support programs and the access to an incredible library all helped motivate me to continue my educational journey,” he said. “It helped that I made some great connections with others who had similar goals to mine.”
While continuing his duties as principal of Lucas Elementary, Gonzalez remains connected to Stan State, teaching a post-graduate course part-time and speaking at campus events.
Gonzalez’s continued involvement at Stan State exemplifies his attitude to always give back to the community that gave so much to him.
“If I can make a difference for someone at Stanislaus State, I am there.”