2023 Joy A & Gayland P Smith Influential Teacher Award Winner, David Munoz

“Congratulations, Mr. David Munoz! You are the recipient of the first annual Joy A. and Gayland P. Smith Teaching Award for your dedication to helping our students be successful daily.”

I felt on top of the world when they called my name at Roosevelt High School’s Senior Award Banquet. I also couldn’t believe it. I was caught off guard because this is my very first year of teaching.

I had an overwhelming feeling of joy and appreciation for my students, the students who voted for me to receive this award. I have a deep love for each of them. They tell me I inspire them, and I don’t know if they realize how much they inspire me every single day.

Mentors throughout my life empowered me and I strive to do the same for my students. Whatever ability, talent, and skill you have, if it can benefit others positively, it is your responsibility to honor, develop, and share it with your friends, family, community, and the world.

After I was encouraged to apply, I was chosen as a Public Service teacher for the Introduction to Public Safety, Criminal Justice, and Public Service Leadership class at Roosevelt High School. I entered the credential program at the same time I was entering a classroom.

I was both nervous and excited. I never saw myself as a youth mentor and something deep inside of me said this is exactly where I am meant to be. In some weird way, it felt like perfect timing.

Becoming a teacher has been such a surprise and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Being a husband, a father, and a teacher are 3 of the most fulfilling things I’ve experienced.

Teaching has been harder than the military. There are many days I’ve wanted to quit, and I am so thankful my wife didn’t let me. I am learning that you grow into your role every day.

I’ve learned that failure and adversity are a part of success and growth. It is better to try and fail instead of never trying at all because then you are left with all the what-ifs.

A message I want to share with students is that it’s okay to not know exactly where you are going to be in the future. Just don’t close yourself off to opportunities. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. It is going to be alright. You are going to be alright. Negativity, self-doubt, and limiting beliefs will try to hold you back. Choose to trust in yourself and trust that opportunities beyond your dreams are already on their way to you.

I did, and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I have never felt more purpose.

David Munoz, 2023 The Joy A and Gayland P Smith Teaching Award Winner at Roosevelt High School

Scholarships are a lifeline for Fresno Unified students who are ambitious, strive to reach their highest potential, and are eager to attend college but cannot because of economic deficits.