Deborah Messer Gonzalez is a teacher and educational administrator currently serving as the superintendent of the Slater School District, a position she has held since 2016. A proud graduate of Slater High School, Ms. Gonzalez was raised and educated in the district that she would later return to teach in. For much of her life, she anticipated building a career in business administration, and completed a bachelor’s degree in business management at Missouri Valley College in 1984. She credits her husband of 36 years, Bob, with providing her the initial inspiration to consider a career in education.
A teacher himself, Bob was hired by the Slater School District in the 1980s, bringing Ms. Gonzalez back into contact with the student and staff community and eventually led her to be hired by the same school as a basketball and softball coach. When an administrative assistant and part-time business teacher position opened up in the district, she was encouraged to apply for it. After she was hired into the role, Ms. Gonzalez remembers her husband as “her greatest support and mentor” and an instrumental force in guiding her through the transition from coach to teacher. She spent the next 14 years teaching business at Slater High School, including one year as the school’s assistant principal.
While teaching, Ms. Gonzalez continued her own education, completing a master’s degree in student personnel administration at the University of Central Missouri, and an additional educational specialist degree with an emphasis in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Drawing on her experience as assistant principal, she stepped into the district superintendent role in 2016. She explains that she is invigorated by change, and looks to change as an opportunity to work with her students, staff, and community to make the district the best it can be. Ms. Gonzalez hopes to keep growing in her current position and helping empower the district to rise to meet any challenges that emerge and to continue to provide an environment and an education that encourages students to become their best selves.
As a part of her commitment to constant professional growth and development, Ms. Gonzalez is the commissioner of the Education Advisory Council and a member of the Missouri Executive Leadership Forum, the Missouri Association of School Business Officials, and the Missouri Association of School Administrators. She was named 2009 Educator of the Year by the Marsaline Branch of the NAACP, and remains active in the Slater Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Gonzalez credits her success to her childhood and close-knit relationship with her family, particularly the values and drive she learned from her father, a machinist and business owner. She feels that becoming superintendent is her greatest professional accomplishment thus far, and looks forward to the things she will accomplish in the role in the future, adding that “we are all lifelong learners and there is always something new to learn each day.”