La mujer que hace todo


Samantha Panfil

Varsity color guard coach Marisela Gonzalez poses for a picture behind a flag wielded by a color guard member.

Steven Keferlis, Features Editor

Color guard coach Marisela Gonzalez huddles with her team as the Midwest Color Guard circuit championships announcer lists the competitors who’ve placed. Gonzalez has been working hard on building Color guard up, and her efforts are about to pay off. They pass the first top 5, steadily approach the top 3, and with an explosion of excitement, Palatine secures its place as 2nd place champions. 

Marisela Gonzalez officially took the role of color guard varsity coach during the summer of 2022, after the original varsity coach, Val Okrasinski retired. 

“I was looking for a leadership opportunity here,” Gonzalez said. “And then I learned the color guard needed a coach. I learned more about the programs and I loved what it was.”

By the time Gonzalez took the position as varsity coach, the color guard’s membership had been depleted due to the COVID pandemic. At the time, they only had five members on the varsity team. 

“COVID had wiped out most of our participation and many of our seniors had left,” varsity color guard member Samantha Panfil said, “So for our summer camp there were only five of us.”

Despite its dwindling membership and only recently taking on the role, Gonzalez worked hard to rebuild the color guard. 

“Over the course of my junior year we started with five flags,” Panfil said. “And we ended up with 18 people.” 

Gonzalez learned alongside her team, pushing them to be their absolute best while building their confidence for the upcoming Midwest championship. 

“Everyone at the time still felt like newbies,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think they knew their potential but I saw it. I definitely thought they would place in the top three.”

Color guard isn’t Gonzalez’s only involvement in Palatine, she has been teaching in the EL department for the past four years. 

“I knew I always wanted to be a teacher, but I didn’t know what subject or even what grade,” Gonzalez said. “I decided to take up a position here as an EL teacher and now I can’t look back.” 

Gonzalez spends a lot of time with her EL students, having some for multiple periods, giving her a special connection with them.

Marisela Gonzalez uses games in her classrooms to better engage her EL students while they learn English phrases. (Siomara Valdez)

“I have two different groups of newcomers right now that I see for three periods each,” Gonzalez said. “It builds a really good relationship with the kids and it’s something that I don’t think other teachers have.”

Teaching within the EL department has been very rewarding for Gonzalez, exposing her to rich cultures and students who come from unique backgrounds.

“It’s a struggle at the beginning,” Gonzalez said. “But as you learn more about the kids, you realize they’re all still kids and they want to be there.”

Despite color guard and EL rarely interacting with each other before, Gonzalez has no problem bringing these two unlikely groups together. 

“I feel like I’m bridging the gap between the kids on my team and the EL students in my class,” Gonzalez said. “My team visits me and has even met my EL students.” 

Gonzalez consistently goes above and beyond her responsibilities, and this loyalty is not lost on others.

“The way she talks about her EL kids, you know she’s in their corner 100%,” said Panfil. “She cares very deeply about the relationships that she builds with students as people. I couldn’t ask for a better coach.”