PHOENIX - In the heart of Phoenix's Maryvale neighborhood, Victoria Gonzales teaches the first grade. She's been doing it for around 15 years, and there is nothing else in the world that she would rather do.
"It's a passion that is within me to teach the children," Gonzales said. "At the end of the school year, I take with me the knowledge that a child learned to read, because I taught them that."
As a young girl in New Mexico, Gonzales said, all the adults she knew spoke Spanish. The children didn't need to speak it -- they just needed to understand it.
That changed when she arrived in Arizona.
"Speaking both languages helps you understand things a lot better here. It helps the child become more successful in life, and that is something great to know," she said.
Gonzales now teaches English language learners, many of whom are native Spanish speakers.
The staff at Starlight Park Elementary knew that Mrs. Gonzales had won the award, but could not tell anyone. "The faculty, and students were all as surprised as she was," said Felicia Dunham, the school's principal.
Victoria said she has no plans for retirement anytime soon and will continue to teach as long as she can. The staff at Starlight is happy to know she will still be around for years to come.