What does it take to become a great teacher? Some may answer with their educational attainment and years of experience, but for Shineth, the best teacher needs to have a heart for their students and their needs.
Before becoming the President of Colorado Global School Incorporated, let’s get to know the woman, the educator, the mother, and the friend, Ms. Shineth Cunanan-Gonzales.
At the early age of 5 years old, Ms. Shineth Cunanan-Gonzales, or Shine as her friends call her, knew she wanted to become a teacher. Growing up in a Dominican school in the Philippines, she looked up to the nuns who taught there, saying they were her role models.
“I was kind of the teacher’s pet…When the teachers needed to be away from the class, they would tell me, “Okay, Shineth, stand in front of the class and watch your classmates.” From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Ms. Cunanan-Gonzales recalled.
Despite realizing early in life her lifelong dream of being an educator, she graduated with a degree in Psychology from St. Paul’s University in Quezon City. However, she wasn’t giving up on that dream just yet.
“I knew that after finishing this [degree] program, I had a choice, I could be a teacher…I wanted to take up Psychology because I knew I could become a preschool teacher. It was a great stepping stone,” she shared.
And as destiny would have it, during one of her daily commutes, she saw a simple Manila Paper banner outside a school looking for a teacher—a week before her college graduation.
One of the most memorable experiences she had there was a phone call from a parent, saying, “You know, when you became the teacher of my child, they were motivated because they would get to see you. And they weren’t like that before.”
This humble phone call made Teacher Shine realize that her philosophy of teaching centers more on an educator’s ability to connect and empathize.
“I want my students to wake up in the morning and look forward to seeing Teacher Shine. Students need to see your genuine care for them. If they don’t like you, they won’t listen, then they won’t understand, and then they will not learn. The teacher-student relationship is very important,” she shared.
After her three-month stint teaching grades 5 and 6 in Holy Name of Mary School, Teacher Shine took her teaching expertise to the land of pad thais and floating markets—Thailand.
Teaching in Thailand
When she moved to Thailand in the year 2000 (until 2013), Teacher Shine shared that there was a high demand for English teachers. She mentioned, “Regardless of the degree you graduated with, you can teach there as long as you can teach ESL (English as a second language).”
In 2003, just three years of teaching in Thailand, Teacher Shine went on to become a School Director for PREP International School in Bangkok. On a personal note, this promotion prompted her to return to the Philippines to secure a teaching license.
“They weren’t requiring me to get a teacher’s license as a School Director, but a lot of Filipino teachers under me were licensed teachers. So personally, as their leader, I don’t have a license, just my [Psychology] degree and my experience. So I went back to the Philippines…took my licensure exam, and passed with flying colors,” she said.
Funnily enough, Teacher Shine mentioned that her aunt mistakenly announced that she did not pass the said licensure exam, after not finding her name in the list of passers in the newspaper.
“I was depressed for a week [because I thought I didn’t pass]. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t pass. Other people told me I was too overconfident because I finished the exam so quickly. This time, I called my Papa in heaven, he was a soldier who died when I was 5 years old, to really tell me if I passed or not. It was confusing because some people would congratulate me then my family would say I didn’t pass,” she shared. Eventually, all things were cleared up when her cousin went online to double check if she passed—and as we all know, she did, and with flying colors!
After passing her licensure exam, she received an offer to teach in California, USA. However, she turned this down because she was still enjoying her time in Thailand.
In 2013, she then moved to the USA to pursue her master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Northern Colorado.
Moving on to greener pastures
In 2019, Teacher Shine went on to open the Colorado Language Program (CLP), which is under the Colorado Global School Incorporated (CGSI).
With the tagline, “Diverse students. Diverse teachers. Diverse learning,” CLP proved this to be true with their goal of providing high quality education aimed to mostly help fellow immigrants, people of different cultures and races, elderly citizens, and other kinds of people with their GED Test Preparation and ESL classes. CLP’s staff also takes pride in its diverse line up of teachers and members.
What makes CLP stand out from its competitors is its so-called “personalized curriculum.” As a teacher, Teacher Shine is always prepared. From Plans A to Z, she makes sure her students are engaged in every class.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it undoubtedly posed a challenge. She mentioned that, “Going online wasn’t effective. I have students who are in their 50s and 60s. It was a technological challenge for them.”
As a solution, Teacher Shine rented other classrooms from local churches and then we also rented conference rooms in coffee shops. My students were following me wherever I went because they really wanted to learn.”
It was important to note that despite CLP conducting physical classes, they still followed proper health protocols to ensure the safety of both the teachers and the students. According to Teacher Shine, they limited the number of students to only five per class, which posed a financial challenge.
Luckily, many organizations donated to CLP, which tremendously aided their relocation at the Greeley Mall.
Teacher Shine calls the Greeley Mall relocation a blessing, saying,“I always trust God that He has a plan for everyone, so we have to be patient. His plan is always what’s best for us.”
In addition to her work in CGSI, Teacher Shine is also studying law at Harvard.
Life beyond the classroom
Beyond the classroom, Shine is married, and they have a 6-year-old son named Jacob Ray. She has plans of having more children, hopefully through adoption.
Shine’s little bundle of joy wants to be a cook and open his own restaurant someday, and jokingly plans to make it a family business with her as the cashier.
According to Shine, her macaroni and cheese and PB&J sandwiches are Jacob Ray’s favorites.
As a religious woman, she instills the lessons of the 10 Commandments to her son, specifically the fourth one, “Honor your father and mother.”
Meanwhile, friends of Shine would describe her as thoughtful and sweet. She shows her love and support for her friends by staying in touch and being a source of positivity for them.
Despite the many challenges Teacher Shine endured, she still remains a beacon of light for everyone in her life. After all, she’s just the kind of “Shine” we need in these difficult times.
Written by: Dayanara Cudal