For Turn of River Middle School Student Luis Guaillas, Miriam Gonzerelli is much more than a teacher.
“She is beautiful, intelligent, kind, and charismatic teacher,” Guaillas says.
Each year, Barnes & Noble invites students to nominate their favorite teacher by writing essays, poems, or thank you letters. Luis’s essay about Gonzerelli, his ESL Language Arts Teacher, was the winning entry at the Stamford Town Center Barnes & Noble.
“I’m very grateful to have her because I have received a lot of help in learning a new language in a different subject,” Guaillas read at the award ceremony.
“It was very emotional for me,” says Gonzerelli. “He wrote in it that he feels that God put me here to help immigrant children adapt to this country so it was just very moving, his words.”
Gonzerelli began her teaching career in the Bronx, where she grew up.
“I saw most of my peers didn’t make it out,” she says. ”And I decided at a young age that I wanted to go back and help students kind of make a difference.”
After teaching in New York for 16 years, Gonzerelli decided to set roots in Stamford. She has been an ESL and Bilingual Language Arts teacher at Turn of River since 1991.
“When I left the Bronx, I felt like I had abandoned my children when I moved here; and then I kind of find a population of these immigrant middle school kids who really needed more than a teacher, so I found a place here in Stamford and it’s very fulfilling,” says Gonzerelli.
Gonzerelli says its students like Luis who make her love what she does.
“He was someone who was being bullied at the beginning of the school year and I helped him get through that, so his essay was just very moving and he just feels love and he feels safe in my classroom and that’s really huge for me, especially for immigrant students who are new to this country.”
Gonzerelli will now be entered into the regional competition where five winners will be chosen. From there, one candidate will be named the Barnes & Noble National Teacher of the Year.
The winning teacher will receive $5,000 as well as the school. Last year, a teacher from Stamford’s Rogers International School won the title.