Phillips Avenue Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Tonya Gonzalez with some of the boxes she received after being picked as a featured teacher by actress Kristen Bell and featured on Bell's Instagram March 29. Courtesy photo

Tonya Gonzalez’s fourth-graders at Phillips Avenue Elementary School received a shock when they came to school one day last week. Their classroom was filled with shipping boxes. And others continued to arrive during the week to reach a total of more than 150 cartons of school supplies, books, games and food. The bounty including a chick incubator and a classroom garden set-up.

In March, Gonzalez emailed actress Kristen Bell asking to be picked by Bell as a “featured teacher.” The actress, known for her roles in “Veronica Mars” and as the voice of Princess Anna of Arendelle in “Frozen,” participates in Instagram’s #10 Featured Teachers crowdsourcing campaign. Each week Bell spotlights a teacher and asks her fans to fulfill the teacher’s Amazon wish list. 

Gonzalez was Bell’s featured teacher on March 29.

View this post on Instagram

Happy #FeaturedTeacherFriday everyone! 📚🎈Today’s amazing teacher is Tonya Gonzalez from Long Island! Here’s her story: “I have been teaching for two years in a Title 1 school on Long Island, New York as a 4th grade bilingual teacher. These two years have been the best years of my life! I absolutely love what I do and my students have made me a stronger and more positive person. No matter what is happening at home or in their lives, they come into my classroom with a huge smile ready to start the day! My school is a supportive and fun-filled diverse family. My entire class consists of 27 English Language Learners with many being new to the United States. The population is about 70% Hispanic 30% African American and Caucasian. Their journeys here are an inspiration and one of the many reasons I advocate for them. Supplies are very limited in the classroom and my students are struggling to get by at home. Many of our students come from low-income families and qualify for low and reduced lunch, and for some the school is their main source of food. My school tries their best to provide food and resources to our families. I try my best to support my students in whatever they need – school supplies or snacks. Since I teach a bilingual classroom, students have the opportunity to express their knowledge of reading and writing in both English and Spanish. This opportunity would help me provide books for my classroom library, especially in Spanish. This would help me create a multicultural diverse environment in the classroom. I teach my students to be proud of who they are and where they are from! Any help would be amazing!” Let’s help Tonya and her students and send books and snacks galore their way- her amazon wishlist is in my bio THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Love you guys. 💗📚

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on

“I told her about the amazing work my class has done and what the needs of my class were.” said Gonzalaz. Her email to Bell speaks volumes about both Gonzalez and Phillips Avenue School.

“My name is Tonya Gonzalez and I have been teaching for two years in a Title 1 school on Long Island, New York as a 4th grade bilingual teacher, ” Gonzalez wrote.

“These two years have been the best years of my life! I absolutely love what I do and my students have made me a stronger and more positive person. The stories they share with me, and the glow and charm they bring into the classroom are what keeps me going. No matter what is happening at home or in their lives, they come into my classroom with a huge smile ready to start the day and make memories!”

Gonzalez explained how many of the students at Phillips come from low-income families and the school tries its best to provide food and resources for them.

“However, sometimes our students are struggling to get by,” she wrote. “I try my best to support my students in whatever they need whether that may be school supplies or snacks. I know in doing this, it can go a long way.”

The young teacher said she was overwhelmed by the response.

“I’m so grateful that my students are being recognized for the amazing work they do,” Gonzalaz said .

“The faces of my students were priceless when they came into class. They could not believe that people across the country reached out to them. They were beyond excited and felt waves of emotion knowing they were being recognized!”


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April Pokorny
April is a writer, reporter and copy editor for the LOCAL news websites. She is a retired educator and proud grandma. April lives in Calverton. Email April