Principal’s Recognition Award: Thea Gonzales


By Duaa Israr

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of 19 stories about last semester’s Principal’s Recognition  Award winners who were recognized on Wednesday, Dec. 2 for outstanding achievement in specific programs. Senior Thea Gonzales received the English Award and was nominated by Mrs. Tamara Jaffe-Notier.

Whether it may be her loud and over spilling personality in the halls of Niles West or her joyous laughter that fills theater productions, senior Thea Gonzales is always finding ways to express herself. This year, Gonzales expressed herself through her beautifully crafted pieces for the Niles West News in her favorite form of expression: writing.

“I am a writer. It’s something that I’ve denied and chronically wrestled with my pride to evade, but it’s what I am. It’s a huge epiphany that I had just recently; in everything I do, I inadvertently try to find the best ways of communicating and expressing to other people. Whether it be through writing songs, doing interviews, or even through poetry…I just know so deeply within me that literacy is a message for which I will always stand up,” Gonzales said.

Last semester, Gonzales was awarded a Principal’s Recognition Award for the subject she loved so dearly. When Gonzales received news of her nomination, surprise took over her followed by gratitude and immense love for the English department.

“Being nominated for the award was completely unexpected. You know when people say that, they’re usually just faking at the whole modesty thing but I genuinely didn’t think about being awarded for English. It’s just something that is a huge part of my life and I’m so honored that the English office thought of me: I love them all to death,” she said.

Although Gonzales was first by English instructor Mrs. Tamara Jaffe-Notier, the entire English department voted for her, making the impact of Gonzales’s hard work and selflessness clear as day.

“Thea has put in four solid years of mano-a-mano struggle with poetry, writing, journalism, and other English-y pursuits.  In AP English Lit Thea is absolutely magnanimous with her time and talents.  She has taken several AP Lit students by the hand and is walking with them, carefully, through the most difficult long-term task in the course–the poetry research essay. She is as generous–in and out of class–with her support for fellow students, as she is thoughtful and hard-working.  Generosity may come naturally to Thea, but the kind of serious self-discipline that she exhibits as a senior in high school is a conscious evolution of her character. I’ve seen her in the Lit Center too. She has fans.  She puts her whole heart into helping her clients gain the skills and understanding that they need,” Jaffe-Notier said. 

Although many people might assume from her brilliantly written works that Gonzales has a natural flair for writing, they couldn’t be more wrong. Gonzales struggled to get where she is today and her hard work has ultimately paid off.

“The English department has made me a leader. It has shown me how to be strong and empowered in my body while also unashamed of my mind. This award means so much more than I could ever say because English isn’t my first language. It’s not even my second, and I’ve faced a lot of hardship and seen how my parents get treated as non-native speakers. What that’s done is that it has allowed me to find beauty in the English language, and being recognized for that by a department that I admire makes me so grateful and so hopeful for an America that continues to allow immigrants to succeed,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales, without a doubt, is the most determined and hard working person in whatever she chooses to do. Whether it’s a new club or a subject she has never heard about, Gonzales gives it her all and many people have noticed.

“Once she’s assigned a task, whether that’s writing a story for Niles West News, doing an in class AP Environmental Science project, or building a piece for the set for the next play, Thea gets right on it. She never looks at things as impossible, and always find a way to complete the task. She works well with others assigned the same task whether that’s helping them or figuring it out together. Thea always finds a solution, no matter the problem, and always gets the work done,” close friend and senior Asha Lodhia said.

Aspiring to be a science writer, Gonzales embraces parts of her that people looked down on or bashed her for.

“I want to be a science writer! And I want to encourage younger kids– especially girls– to be passionate about science because I was the geeky smart kid who loved talking about NatGeo during recess and I was made fun of but now, I’m like, ‘forget you,’ I will be successful,” Gonzales said.


Previous installment in the Principal’s Recognition Award series

Tim Petroulakis  –