Gwen Sanchez volunteers at Northlake Elementary to give back to the school that has educated her three children.

“I don’t feel I’ve done nearly as much for Northlake as Northlake has done for my kids,” Sanchez says. “Aside from getting a first-rate education, which I believe they’re getting, they’re learning about the real world and making friends with people from other cultures.”

Sanchez is the mother of Laura (6th grade), Alexis (11th grade) and Rob, who recently graduated from Lake Highlands High School. All of her children have been schooled in Lake Highlands since 1989, when the Sanchez family moved to Dallas, and Gwen began volunteering. Her husband, Bob, is a senior vice president with NationsBank.

Sanchez teaches a Spanish class for fifth and sixth graders once a week after school at Northlake. About 40 students voluntarily attend the hour-long class to get a head start for junior high.

Additionally, Sanchez volunteers in the school’s library, helps the PTA, serves as a room mother and coaches students for the annual Odyssey of the Mind, an academic competition that encourages creativity and teamwork. Over the years, she also has volunteered for the high school and Lake Highlands Junior High. When it’s all added up, Sanchez devotes about 30 hours a week to neighborhood schools.

“I get a lot of satisfaction,” Sanchez says. “I just grew up thinking that you just kind of give back to the community.”

“I’m a Spanish teacher by profession, but when my husband (a Mexican national) and I lived in Mexico City, there wasn’t too much call for that,” Sanchez laughs.

“I did get to perfect my Spanish though,” she says.

When Sanchez came to Dallas, she saw an opportunity to volunteer and apply her Spanish-teaching skills at her children’s school.

Northlake principal Kay Shickles says parents such as Sanchez are invaluable.

“She values diversity, is very loyal to the school and non-judgmental,” Shickles says. “Without Gwen and parents like her, the partnership of parents, teachers and students that make up a school could not exist.”

“I’ve had more fun working with the kids and getting to know their families,” Sanchez says. “We’ve got a real diverse community at Northlake, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the other parents.”