Anna Gonzales is nothing short of extraordinary. In my three years at Deerfield, I had the grave misfortune of not knowing Ms. Gonzales until my junior year. However, the tides turned in my favor when I got Mac 2 and Gonzo as my hall resident this year. Her kind spirit, warm laughter, open-mindedness, encouraging personality, and most of all, her great sense of humor, instantly made her one of my favorite people at Deerfield. Sunday and Wednesday night feeds in Gonz’s apartment always brightened up my week. There is no one else I would rather sit with and talk to for an hour (even when I should be doing my homework) than Ms. Gonzales. Ms. Gonzales’ impact on the Deerfield community will be felt long after she is gone. Deerfield is a better place because of her.
Ms. Gonzales herself was once a Deerfield student, part of the graduating class of 2012. During her time at Deerfield, she was both an academic weapon and a star student-athlete. She balanced her responsibilities on the Scroll and Albany Road with her athletic schedule of field hockey, skiing, and cycling.
She went on to Swarthmore College, where she continued to prove herself as a force to be reckoned with, earning highest honors in English literature and gender studies. After graduating from Swarthmore, she returned to Deerfield in 2016 to teach English as a teaching fellow. In her return to Deerfield, Gonz gained the love and respect of students and faculty alike and earned a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Maybe the reason she is treasured so much by our community is that she has a unique perspective as both former student and current teacher, and she is able to connect with students in very meaningful ways. Aneesha Mishra ’21, a student of Gonzales’ American Freedom class, explained that Gonzales remembers what it is like to be a student at Deerfield. “Ms. Gonzales understands how difficult life at Deerfield can be, and she’s always trying to help make it easier for us,” she said. “She’s always willing to give us extensions or advice if we need it.”
At the Girls’ Meeting every year when Gonzo is introduced, the room shakes with the roars of the female-identifying students whom she has inspired. Although I had never had a class, co-curricular, or dorm experience with Gonzo until this year, I always found myself joining in that same cheer for her. Students who don’t know her personally still admire her because of her infectious personality. The crowd chants “Gonzo! Gonzo! Gonzo!,” until we’ve obviously embarrassed her enough, and then the room goes silent to behold the words of wisdom that she is about to speak.
Ms. Gonzales shares a distinct connection with everyone she meets and talks to. Conversations with her are always memorable and somehow turn to deep reflective questions about society. Some of my favorites are “How can we be a more inclusive community as a school?” or “Intersectionality in feminism is key to working to solve many societal problems.” It is an understatement to say Gonzo makes us all better thinkers, and I am a kinder person because of her.
When she is not making an impact on her students, in meetings, or in the classroom, Gonz can be found coaching girls’ Junior Varsity squash and girls’ Junior Varsity tennis. She is an excellent coach despite the fact that she actually can’t play squash… It is a mystery that has riddled the minds of her historically winning squash teams. She is a leader both in and off the courts. Girls on both her squash and tennis teams describe her as a “super supportive, fun, and uplifting coach”. The best part about her, they say, is that “she’s always there for you, whether it’s sports-related, school-related, or not.”
Gonz, you are a true leader and inspiration to countless Deerfield students. You are the champion of women, an activist, the best shoulder to cry on, the advice we seek in uncertain times, and one of the best alumni Deerfield has ever produced. To those of you who have the grave misfortune of not knowing Ms. Gonzales very well, ask any of her former students, the athletes on her teams, and girls on her hall about her. You will be met with an array of different stories that all align to paint a picture of a beautiful soul.
Ms. Gonzales, just because you are leaving does not mean that our many memories of you will leave us. After eight long years at Deerfield, it is time that you move on to inspire and teach the next group of young people who will be fortunate enough to meet you. Big things lie ahead in your future such as but not limited to—a Nobel Peace Prize. But seriously, please remember us in all the great places you’ll go, because I am positive that we will all remember you in all the great places we go: a large part of whatever we achieve will be because we had the honor of knowing you. Ms. Anna Gonzales, are truly nothing short of extraordinary.