Maestro de la Semana: Esteban Gonnet at Pleasant Grove Elementary School

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“Maestro de la Semana” (Teacher of the Week) is a series of short videos where we highlight outstanding educators in the Dallas Independent School District. During Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), we will be emphasizing our teachers who go above and beyond so our students can move forward.

Esteban Gonnet has more than 30 years of teaching experience. He began his education career when he was a college student in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The 2019-2020 school year will be his 12th year working in Pleasant Grove Elementary School, where he teaches fifth-grade bilingual literature. 

Pleasant Grove Elementary Principal Anabel Ruiz describes Gonnet as a dedicated and devoted educator. Additionally, he has demonstrated a commitment to improving Dallas ISD and the Pleasant Grove community.

“He keeps in touch with the students’ families after the school year is over to ensure that they are progressing academically, even if they are no longer in his class,” Ruiz said. “He attends summer trainings for bilingual teachers and shares the strategies that have worked in his classroom so other teachers can implement them in their own classrooms.”

We spoke with Gonnet, who told us how he got started in education:

Tell us about your path as a teacher

I was born in Argentina. I have been a teacher for 30 years. I came to the United States 12 years ago after Dallas ISD went to Argentina to recruit bilingual teachers. Since I came here, my passion for teaching has never wavered.

I started teaching while I was in college in order to pay for law school. Then, one day, I realized that I liked teaching. When I finished school and earned my law degree, I wondered if I could continue practicing law and teach at the same time.

For 10 years, I taught and practiced law part-time. One day, I was offered the assistant principal position at a school. The time had come for my family and I to make a decision; did I want to keep practicing law, or should I dedicate myself 100 percent to teaching.

After asking God for guidance and after much thinking, I concluded that I wanted to teach full-time.

What subjects do you teach and how do you make it your own?

I teach literature, which is a challenge in the 21st century because it seems like literature has to compete nowadays with technology and computer screens. However, I try to use technology to get the children engaged and interested in literature.

I have a book with me wherever I go because the kids are always looking at us as role models. As teachers, we are not always aware that the students are looking at us. So, I carry a book, even though here at school I rarely have time to read it.

Often times, when we have time to read with the children, I sit and open a book as well. I then join them and talk to them about the book I’m reading. Just yesterday, I was talking to them about a book about a queen in 19th-century England, and we started discussing it and it caught their interest. And we then connected it to social studies lesson.

Literature is an everyday thing; it is a living thing. But, if we don’t set the example and continue to walk down the hallway with our cellphone, and the students don’t see us with books, they will put off reading if we are not doing it ourselves.

Do you have a favorite book you like to share with your fifth-grade classes?

There are a lot of great books, but I believe that before I choose a book for the class, I have to get to know my students. Each one of them is different, with different interests, and there are different groups. That’s one of the things I do as a teacher: try to have a bond with them and get to know what they like and don’t like. I try to know more about their story, where their families come from.

I was born in Argentina and in my home, growing up, there was diversity. My father’s side is from Argentina, and my mother’s side is from Spain. My grandfather was from France and my great-grandfather was from the United States, so, in my house, we always heard different languages and diversity was part of our life.

Moving here, I had a lot to learn as a teacher, mainly the Spanish from Mexico. I speak Spanish from Argentina, so there were so many words that I had to learn. And, I enjoyed learning about Mexican culture and the local culture. Additionally, I challenge myself to learn about the culture of each student. Because every home is different, and each family has its own stories and I love to hear them. By knowing them, we create a relationship, and it is here where learning can begin.

What do you like best about being a teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School?

To be honest I like everything. I believe I have the best job in the world. Children are honest and funny, they laugh, and always want to play. Working with children is fun. So, I enjoy coming here every day to do what I love. All my principals have encouraged me to be a principal or assistant principal. And I’ve thought about it, but to be honest, I like being in the classroom and working with kids. I know that if I pursue that other job, I may be able to do it, but I wouldn’t be in the classroom.

When I arrive in the morning, until I leave at the end of the day, sometimes I’m tired. I’m not 20 years old, and I’ve been teaching for more than 30. But when I see a child smile, and see that he or she is making progress; that what makes my work meaningful.

For me, it is such a huge responsibility and I feel as if God gave me this opportunity to teach. I only have eight months with them: to have them in a classroom, to show them how good it feels to succeed and to instill in them that failing should never be an option.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank my family who have always stood by my side. My wife who has always supported me. I would also like to thank this incredible group of colleagues: my principals and my coworkers, who day in and day out help me and without whom none of the work that we do would be possible. Because here at Pleasant Grove Elementary School we are a family and we all work together.

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