Bobby Gonzalo’s history in Peoria runs deep.
The son of a sheep herder, he spent his early years in a Peoria that probably wouldn’t be recognizable to the average resident today, one that was still steeped in its agricultural ways.
It was a humble beginning that blossomed into an abundance of giving.
Gonzalo graduated from Peoria High School in 1968, and like many before him, later came back to teach at the school after college. The school’s roots are strong, propped up by those who walked the halls as students and later came back as educators.
On his return, Gonzalo found a place on the PHS football coaching staff for 40 years and the wrestling staff for 25 years. He was inducted into the Arizona Coaches Hall of Fame as a wrestling coach for leading the Peoria team to its winningest period under his tenure.
Additionally, he has long supported and implemented opportunities to honor school alumni and veterans. During the 100 year celebration of the high school, he was instrumental in a number of activities to honor former teachers and students, as well as preserve and maintain the school’s history.
Post-retirement, he contributes as a board member for the Panther Booster Club, ensuring the community helps the school succeed.
Former Peoria City Council member Vicki Hunt worked alongside Gonzalo as a teacher for a number of years and said his dedication to the betterment of Peoria High is unparalleled.
“I know of no one who has done more to motivate kids to be their best selves — and to reach far above their surroundings and to believe in themselves as Bobby Gonzalo,” she said.
For his service to the Peoria High School community and beyond, Gonzalo has been named a Peoria Independent Hometown Hero.
The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live or teach in the city, and Peoria businesses for their achievements and distinguished contributions to the community and beyond.
Gonzalo will be honored at an awards luncheon next year. The third annual Hometown Heroes luncheon will honor those nominated in 2023.
In partnership with the city of Peoria, Gonzalo will also be interviewed by the city and aired on Channel 11.
Gonzalo attended the University of Arizona, and began teaching at Peoria High School at the age of 22, straight out of college. For 15 years he taught U.S. History and Spanish. In 1986 he earned his Masters Degree in Counseling from Northern Arizona University and was soon after named head counselor at PHS.
But it was his time as a student at Peoria High School that Gonzalo said he not only received an excellent education, but had teachers and coaches who instilled strong values in him that were carried over into his teaching and counseling in the years to come.
This was obvious to now retired PHS educator Tom Doty, who has known Gonzalo since his first day of teaching at the school.
Doty said Gonzalo was a mentor to him and gave him the “Peoria treatment,” as well as made him feel at home from day-one. It is a treatment that makes you want to come back to the school, Doty said.
The “Peoria treatment” is working for the kids, motivating them, building them up, but more importantly, making PHS their home away from home, Doty added.
“This was true of Bobby from our first conversation, and he passed it down each year to all new teachers and coaches,” Doty said. “I feel this is why we have had so many students who return as teachers and former students who still come back to their neighborhood school; their home away from home, where they felt safe and comfortable attending.”
And the “Peoria treatment” has continued from Gonzalo, even after retiring from the district in 2006.
Peoria High School Principal Landa Tartaglio said Gonzalo’s contributions have garnered him a reputation throughout the Peoria community for his selfless approach to bringing together alumni, preserving the history and tradition of the high school, and his unwavering dedication to honoring veterans as well as commitment to serving others.
In the last two years, as part of the 100th anniversary of the high school, Gonzalo has facilitated alumni nights for each of the decades to include a presentation, tour, dinner and attending a football game for hundreds of community members.
Additionally, he committed to a brick fundraiser to support these and many school initiatives in which he structured an area for alumni and veterans to be honored.
Tartaglio said the commitment he displayed in pulling this all together for others to enjoy was incredible.
Gonzalo’s passion for Peoria cannot be matched; his dedication and great pride in his work has made him a legend in the community, she said.
“It has truly been a pleasure knowing and working with Bobby. He is focused on what is best for our school and the Peoria community,” Tartaglio said. “He leads with a heart of servitude and passion. He has truly been a partner vital to the success of Peoria High School. ... His active involvement and selfless approach are a model for others to follow. Mr. Gonzalo is a deserving recipient of Hometown Hero.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman. We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.
Editor’s note: Vicki Hunt contributed to this report.