First Year Teacher Gabrielle Ponce Is Teaching At Liberty Elementary School

Sioux City, Iowa - One conversation can lead to a lifetime of inspiration.

Gabrielle Ponce was sitting in a Family and Consumer Science class during her freshman year at West High School when her teacher introduced the class to a unit on careers and jobs. The class proved to be a turning point for Gabrielle.

“I remember the passion that my teacher had when she was describing her career as a high school teacher. She said many things about her job, but what amazed me the most was her enthusiasm for teaching us,” adds Gabrielle. “I wanted to grow up to have a career where I could love my job just like she did.”

Gabrielle has found that same passion as a first-year teacher at Liberty Elementary School, the same school she attended as a student years ago. Her first day at Liberty Elementary School was a full circle moment for Gabrielle who had to overcome multiple obstacles in her quest to become a teacher.

Gabrielle moved from California to Sioux City when she was four, a move her parents made when they saw their neighborhood in California becoming more dangerous.

“My parents were not able to graduate or even finish elementary school because they had to provide for their family back in El Salvador when they were growing up. They’ve worked very hard for my brother and me to have all the opportunities even with their limited English,” says Gabrielle. “Because of them, I was the first one to graduate both high school and college.”

While Gabrielle was a quiet student, her teachers and educational experiences provided a solid base for her future career. Her fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Laurie Powell, who is now a coworker of Gabrielle’s at Liberty Elementary School, instilled a love for reading. Mrs. Powell’s daily readings were a highlight for students like Gabrielle.

In fifth grade, Ms. Laura Miller broke through Gabrielle’s shell “because of her amazing classroom culture” says Gabrielle whose confidence blossomed. When Gabrielle entered high school, the Sioux City Career Academy provided her with an opportunity to intern at Clark Early Childhood Center.

Gabrielle attended Morningside University where she majored in elementary education, earning a bachelor’s degree along with ESL and reading endorsements. During college, she completed her practicums and student teaching experiences in multiple schools throughout the District.

“I wanted to teach in the district that I grew up in, not necessarily in the same school that I attended, but that’s where my path brought me. I wouldn’t change a thing,” Gabrielle says.

As a first-year teacher, the long hours of preparation have paid off notes Gabrielle. Seeing students learn something for the first time makes it all worth it.

“You never know where life is going to take you. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a shy little girl being the one to lead a classroom where I get to do what I love. I wasn’t the smartest student in my classes growing up, and I didn’t have all the resources at times, but I worked hard with the help of my parents,” says Gabrielle. “If I did it, I know students who are in school now can work hard to achieve anything they set their mind to.”