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Getting Real with Gonser: A Teacher Spotlight
May 3, 2022
When you come to Timberline you will find an experience like no other. You’ll discover that the students have a strong, safe community and each caring staff member is always there to help you grow. One staff member in particular that you’d be glad to meet is Mr. Kelly Gonser. Gonser is one of the most caring individuals at our school and he serves as an inspiration to many of his students. I had the exclusive opportunity to interview Gonser to learn and share his incredible background and his goal as a teacher/mentor at our school. His inspiring story will leave you speechless and his mission to change lives will warm your heart.
Gonser as a Teacher
As of now, Gonser teaches psychology and history classes. He began teaching back in 1994 at Fairmont Jr. High and moved to Timberline in 2000. Here at Timberline he started out as a guidance counselor and eventually switched to teaching. Since his arrival to Timberline, Gonser has left a huge impact on many students and staff members through his actions at our school. From the events he organizes, to his supportive personality, and down to every lesson he teaches, Gonser finds an opportunity to touch the hearts of high schoolers. He cares for every student he meets and is always there to lend a hand. He shares his values and beliefs through his teaching and changes students’ lives while doing that.
One important belief Gonser shared in our interview is: phones should not exist as substitutes in our lives. Obviously, phones are very important and it’s okay for people to have them, but from Gonser’s perspective there comes a point where they become substitutes for real-world experiences. Everyday, Gonser watches students mindlessly allow phones to distract them from their stressful lives when the best thing for them to do is to face what is making their lives stressful. In his classroom it is a rule to put your phone away until the period is over, this encourages his students to actively participate in collaborations with their peers. By doing this, Gonser sets his students up for success in his classroom and in all other aspects of their lives.
Gonser’s Childhood Experience
During his childhood, Gonser had an experience like no other. At a young age he had to develop the ability to connect with others and understand their feelings. He was raised by his mom, as his biological father was not around. His dad suffered from mental illness and eventually took his life at a young age. Unfortunately, Gonser did not know his dad because he died a week after Gonser was born but he still experienced the pain others carried from his father’s absence. Despite the toll taken on his family, Gonser obtained an uplifting perception surrounding the event. He discovered that it was best to view the tragic loss of his father as an opportunity to learn about mental health and take action in his father’s honor.
In school, Gonser found positive connections with both teachers and coaches but when it came to fitting in with students, Gonser told me, “I always felt like I was on my own little island in high school.” It can be hard to navigate high school and teenage life at the same time and Gonser experienced that first-hand. Of course he survived his high school experience, but it was all thanks to the support from his teachers, coaches, and his “I always felt like I was on my own little island in high school.”” — Gonser
“I always felt like I was on my own little island in high school.””
mom. As his high school career was coming to an end, Gonser still didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, feeling rushed and overwhelmed, he went to his mom for advice. She pointed out his appreciation for teachers and coaches at school and that similarly, he strives to help others. Just like that, he knew what the answer was and Gonser decided to pursue a life of teaching.
One of the many ways Gonser makes a change at our school is through Wolf connection. Only two years after his arrival to Timberline, Gonser formed the Wolf Connection club. Since the start it was successful and expanding this program acted as his new mission at Timberline High School. As a counselor, Gonser saw the same challenges throughout the student body every day, but he knew that his individual capabilities were not enough to solve the problem. He noticed people around him experiencing a lack of connection and meaning in
their high school lives so he created a solution to help his students. His intention for the program was creating new connections; if students created relationships with each other and connected through their shared struggles they could grow together. Older students could act as mentors to younger students and everyone could bond over their troubles and goals in life.
Originally, Fortify and Wolf Connection weren’t separate things, Wolf Connection began in 2002 and wasn’t extended to Fortify until 2012. After his idea for Wolf Connection took off, Gonser created Fortify to create more focus on helping the lower classmen of Timberline connect to school culture. Wolf Connection is offered as a class called ‘Community Leadership’, where students learn to organize their current and future lives while also spreading kindness around the community. Regular activities in Wolf Connection include: lunch with third graders, visiting nursing homes, organizing volunteer opportunities, and future planning activities. According to Gonser, all of these activities are meant to help build confidence and character in students while also preparing them for their futures. There is always room for self-improvement in Wolf Connection and that’s why Gonser is here to help. He believes in each member of the group and told me, “The idea of being the best version of yourself is a huge thing that we model.” “The idea of being the best version of yourself is a huge thing that we model.”” — Gonser
“The idea of being the best version of yourself is a huge thing that we model.””
Gonser has surely inspired many people over the years and will continue to inspire more. From his background, to his goals at Timberline, he serves as an outstanding role model to his students. Here at Timberline, everyone knows his name, and now his story too. Gonser has left a mark on our school and for that, he will always be greatly appreciated.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi