Gonzalez honored for instilling confidence and motivation


Photo courtesy of Michelle Gonzalez

School psychologist Michelle Gonzalez recieves the Governor’s Educational Service Professional of the Year Award.

On the walls of psychologist Michelle Gonzalez’s office, already adorned with family photos, inspirational quotes and handwritten cards, a new decoration can be found: the Governor’s Educational Service Professional of the Year Award.

After working at West Essex for half a decade, Gonzalez is proud that her hard work has been honored, especially since the nominations come from her colleagues who have witnessed her impact. 

“It really means a lot to me, because it comes from the people that I work with on a daily basis,” she said. 

After graduating from Montclair State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in sociology, she continued on to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology with a concentration in children and adolescents. 

Gonzalez loves being able to make a difference in students’ lives, getting to know them and helping them how she can. Her job responsibilities include developing individualized education plans for students with special needs, but her favorite aspect  of what she does is being able to work one-on-one with students and connect with them on a personal level. When days prove challenging, it is the students who make her work worthwhile. 

“What motivates me is when I see the students that are struggling still show up,” she said. “That motivates me, because I know what they’re going through. I know how hard it is, and they are still trying and coming and doing their best. So, I need to do my best to help them.”

Outside the walls of West Essex, Gonzalez is interested in holistic healing. Becoming a mother and working in the psychology field sparked her interest in the correlation between  mental health  and what people put in their bodies, and how that can impact the way we think about medicine. 

“I agree that [medication] is appropriate when needed, [but] I am very much in support of exploring and modifying nutritional and environmental factors as a first step,” she said. 

Gonzalez hopes students who work with her will find motivation and confidence in themselves. 

“I want them to feel like they can be independent and like they can do things that they thought they never could,” she said. “I want them to feel like they matter.”