Breaking Down Language—and Financial—Barriers for Students
As far back as when he was in middle school, Ray Gonzales remembers feeling a connection to those who, like his father, immigrated to the United States. “Although I don’t have a strong ethnic identity, I’ve always wanted to help people who weren’t born here feel more at home in the United States.
In his 20-plus-year career at Montgomery College, Gonzales has helped countless students become more fluent English readers and writers through the English Language for Academic Purposes (ELAP) curriculum. And throughout his tenure, he has generously supported student scholarship funds.
Gonzales provided gifts for such initiatives as Hurricane Katrina Relief, the Global Humanities Institute, and the Ike and Catherine Leggett Scholarship. His most recent $10,000 pledge, a special benefit for employees through payroll deduction, names the Raymond Gonzales Scholarship, for students in ELAP or communications studies.
“ELAP is composed of students who need a bit of work on their English skills to succeed in their future classes,” says Gonzales. “They’re very driven—and always so appreciative.” They are recent and long-term immigrants, some of whom face challenges—financial and otherwise. Gonzales notes many of these students possess bachelor’s and master’s degrees, even Ph.Ds.
After earning a bachelor’s in political science from Rutgers University and a master’s from American University in international affairs, Gonzales embarked on his own international journey. He taught English in Damascus, Syria, and South Korea. When he returned to the states, he pursued another master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages at American University. He started teaching at the College in 1999, earning a full-time position in 2000.
“Montgomery College is a wonderful place to teach,” he says. “There are so many opportunities to get professional development, to join committees, and take leadership roles.” Gonzales is the department chair for ELAP, Linguistics, and Communication Studies at the Rockville Campus. He co-authored (with two other MC professors) The Word Combination Card, which helps students develop fluency, precision, and clarity in their academic writing. And, as co-investigator on a Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM (TIDES) grant, he conducted workshops on culturally responsive teaching at national, regional, and local conferences.
Alla Webb, department chair at the Germantown and Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campuses who served as principal investigator on the TIDES grant, says, “Ray is an exceptional professor—and is so passionate about his students. We developed a very good friendship while helping others implement important strategies in their classrooms. He represents everything that makes Montgomery College great."