By Rosalia Salinas
Beatrice Gonzales’ dream of quality education for bilingual students inspired several generations of teachers. First as a second grade teacher in South Bay, then as district bilingual coordinator and later as Director of the Bilingual Teacher Training Program at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) Bea’s work benefited, supported, and inspired thousands of educators in the area and throughout the state.
She was motivated by a profound dissatisfaction with the status quo. As a teacher she knew that if the quality of teaching was good, then students were better served if they had access to two languages.
Ms. Gonzales was born in San Antonio, Texas on December 7, 1942 and grew up in a large and tightly united family. Family was the anchor that gave energy and satisfaction to her life. “Aunt Bea” was intertwined in the lives of her nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. Aunt Bea knew everyone’s special stories and she made everyone feel that they were her favorite.
One of her first jobs was a two-year position as an administrative assistant in the Pentagon. Inspired by the social justice work of the Chicano and Civil Rights movement she then moved to San Diego.
She completed her teaching credentials and was delighted to be part of the Nestor bilingual program in South Bay. She would remark on the satisfaction she received in seeing students achieve literacy skills in two languages. She later became a district bilingual coordinator.
During her tenure at SDCOE, Ms. Gonzales was in charge of preparing and coordinating professional development for teachers who taught English learners. “I was so impressed by Bea’s conviction that teachers need to be treated in the same way that students have to be treated: acknowledging their limitless potential, building on the strengths they have and supporting their development” said Dr. Aida Walqui ,a colleague from WestEd.
After her passing friends and colleagues established the Bea Gonzales Biliteracy Scholarships awarded to students who have achieved academically and are also recipients of the Seal of Biliteracy from their individual districts. Presently seventeen districts in San Diego County award the Seal of Biliteracy.
To raise funds for these deserving students the scholarship committee is sponsoring a “fun raiser” on Sunday April 24th with an auction that includes handicrafts from Latin America, jewelry and art work. For information please call 619 296-5768.
Rosalia Salinas is chair of the Beatrice Gonzales Biliteracy Scholarship Committee.