Resident’s Voice: Henry Gonzalez. 'Teaching Has Been a Challenge, But a Blessing’

Henry Gonzalez in action.jpg

Henry Gonzalez was no stranger to EHTP when he became an East Harlem Teaching Resident—he grew up in the neighborhood, and even participated in our after-school program when he was younger! The third-grade instructor in our elementary inclusive learning program began the year virtually due to the pandemic; he recently started teaching at East Harlem Scholars Academy in person, and took a few minutes to check in with ETHP:

Why did you decide to join the EHTP Teaching Residency? 

I wanted to take the next step in education. I had been working with kids for most of my life and thought, “what is the next logical move?” So I knew about the Residency and I went for it. Then I just kept getting further and further in the program and I was really happy about it. It also feels so nice to be working in the neighborhood I live in.

What has been your favorite moment of the experience so far? 

When we had our first day in-class and were able to speak to the scholars face-to-face. It’s great to have a real conversation and just fully experience the brilliance of the students. We were also doing after-school clubs. I did an improv club and I asked the students, “Can you sell me a thing that has no value, like a ball without any air in it?” One of the students said, “Well you don’t really need air, you can fill it with cheese, or fill it with water…” And I just thought, “There you go!” The kids were really getting the hang of it. 

What challenges have you faced learning to teach during a pandemic? 

At first I thought I was losing 80 percent of my personality being behind a screen. It was really hard just sitting in my chair from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and feel like I had missed the entire day. One of the hardest things is reaching everybody in a class of 20-30 students when you’re online, because you can’t see everybody. As much as it’s been a challenge, it's also been a blessing. With so many people out of work, I’m getting the chance to learn and be a part of a program that helps me be a better teacher.

What excites you about teaching?

It’s all about being around kids. They’re so open to everything. They can literally be anything they want. You revel in the times they’re joking around or just having a really good time. Like today, one of my students said, “This is the best class ever!” and I just thought, “You have so much joy! I love it! It’s the greatest!” Kids being happy and enjoying class is the stuff I live for. 

What are you looking forward to most about in-person teaching?

I’m looking forward to slowly having more students in class. It’s great to have a small group now, because we can really focus on them, but I’m excited about adding more and more students. I’m looking forward to how this evolves and once Covid calms down and we can actually come in with masks off. I’ll be really happy about that. 

What would you say to someone who was thinking about joining the Residency program next year? 

It’s a great opportunity. Everything you learn is what you’ll be putting into practice, and is really well thought out. If you want to be a person that works with anti-racism and differentiated education, you will come out of it a really good teacher. It’s intense sometimes, but it provides a lot of opportunity for you to grow and learn and be a better member of society. Plus it’s a really nice school. What’s not to love?

Wende Gozan Brown