Graduation stories: Sisters Elizabeth and Yadira Gonzalez set example for family

May 11, 2011

When sisters Elizabeth and Yadira Gonzalez accept their diplomas on Saturday, about 20 people in their extended family will be in the audience, many traveling from California and their native Mexico.

The sisters lived in Jalisco, Mexico, before coming to the United States with their mother and siblings to join their father in California before moving to Kansas.

So far, Elizabeth has been the leader on the path the entire family is walking. Now 24, she graduated from Highland Park High School in Topeka in 2005. Yadira, 22, graduated in 2006.

Elizabeth waited for Yadira to finish high school then both enrolled at Allen County Community College. Eventually, they found themselves enrolled together in The Teachers College at ESU.

“Except for two semesters, every semester we took the same exact classes,” said Yadira.

The pair saved money by carpooling from Topeka to ESU for classes.

The two chose The Teachers College for its national reputation in the field of teacher education. Once they started taking classes, the benefits of their choice was apparent.

“It’s not a job for them,” Elizabeth said about The Teachers College faculty. “They have a passion for the job.”

Both Elizabeth and Yadira have worked to take that passion with them into the classroom, a step that separated them although both did their student teaching in the Topeka Public Schools — Elizabeth at Whitson Elementary and Yadira at Meadows Elementary.

The pair are so much alike that they find themselves drawn to the same elementary-education positions.

“We want dual language,” said Yadira. “We want ELL (English language learner).”

Already they’ve both interviewed for the same position.

“We’re not trying to compete,” Yadira said. “Our philosophy is, if somebody has to have the job, it should be one of us.

“If she has it, I’m going to be super happy, as long as one of us has it.”

With their mother a retired teacher, the Gonzalez sisters enjoy carrying on a family tradition and also setting an example for other family members. A brother and sister already are taking classes at Allen County Community College. Two younger sisters are in middle and elementary schools.

And both Elizabeth and Yadira have their own children watching their examples. Elizabeth has a 4-year-old daughter and a son born four months ago during her student teaching. Yadira’s son is 2 ½ years old.

All will be in Emporia on Saturday to see the sisters walk across the stage.

“It’s like the end of almost five years of our sacrifices,” Elizabeth said.

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