An inspiring role model


Gissel Enriquez

On May 8, Spanish teacher, Mrs. Roybal, shares her pageant past to demonstrate the many talents she has besides being a teacher. “The ingredients that are required to win a pageant are voice, confidence, and the ability to communicate your message to a group of people, ” Roybal said, “ These are the same qualities needed to be a teacher. ”

Sara Cabrera, Writer/ Copy Editor

For Spanish teacher, Mrs. Roybal, musical theater was her natural born talent, along with modeling, which she discovered later in life upon entering her first pageant and winning the title of Miss Whittier, in 1982, at age 21.


Having performed since age 7, by singing in her church choir and attending Joan Golden School of Dance in La Habra at age 9, Roybal decided to enter a beauty pageant during her sophomore year attending Cal-State Fullerton. Because she took the title of Miss Whittier on her 21st birthday, Whittier Daily News published an article titled “Village queen of hearts sets her sights high”, by Robin Newsent and commented on what better birthday present a girl could receive on her 21st birthday than to win her first pageant in the city she was born and raised in.


“In Miss Whittier, they put a lot of emphasis on poise and you had to give a speech, Roybal said. “That’s why I did it, because I didn’t just want it to be about looks. I wanted to compete as the whole person.”


Roybal believes that she had an advantage over the other girls who had been pageanting all their lives because the majority of the time, pageant girls’ responses tend to sound rehearsed.


“Sometimes they do come off phony and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to put myself out there; they either like me or they don’t.  I can’t control that’, so I think being genuine was a very neat quality that not everyone has,” Roybal said. “At the very end of my speech, I said ‘Gracias por compartir algo de mi vida [Thank you for sharing a part of my life],’ that was it, but I believe it made me stand out a bit more.”


After winning Miss Whittier, Roybal was first runner up in the Miss Orange County pageant, then third runner up for Miss Buena Park. Her dream of being Miss California, and to eventually be crowned Miss America faded away after becoming side tracked due to college and modeling, which she began to pursue after winning her first pageant.


Roybal dropped out of college for a year to give herself time for things she wanted to experience, so she wouldn’t have regrets later in life.


“My parents were very concerned, but I said, ‘I need to give this a year, because I don’t want to be the kind of person later on that says ‘I should of done this, or I should of done that,’” Roybal said. “My mom got pregnant with me very early, and she didn’t get to live out a lot of her dreams and I never wanted that same situation.”


Roybal shares that teaching was not her first choice as a career. While in high school, Roybal wanted to become a psychologist, then considered becoming a television reporter, but had a change of heart when she was informed she would have to move to a small town in Nebraska. When she began to pursue her career in modeling, Roybal tells how difficult it was constantly having to maintain an extremely thin figure.


“I’ve always been a curvy girl and I couldn’t eat, so in order to work, I had to literally just eat lettuce,” Roybal said. It was really tough and I thought, ‘I can’t make a living with this face and this body. It’s not going to last forever.’”


Finally, when Roybal was at the top of her modeling career and making good money, she decided to go back to college on her own terms and get her degree.


Influenced by her college professor who she said changed her life, she took trips to Mexico and Spain, continuing to take Spanish classes during the summer while she attended college.


Her last semester in Cal-State Fullerton is when she decided to become a Spanish teacher and as a result has been teaching for 27 years now—25 at Downey High School.


Despite the fact she is Scottish, Irish, and first generation American, Roybal feels that due to her passion for music, she gained an ear for foreign languages and cultures.


“I definitely think that her love of music has been incorporated into the way she teaches her class, which makes it much more entertaining than the average AP Spanish class,” junior Fatima Yataco said.


In the past, before her children were born, Roybal has taken a few of her students with her on trips to Europe.  She went every other year from 1991 to 1999.


“I loved that my students could see the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum in Rome, all these things that I had seen already, like I had been seeing them for the first time,” Roybal said.


While teaching a foreign language, Roybal is still able to practice her talents, implementing musical theater into her lesson plans as learning tactics for her students. She has done activities with her students involving rhythm, rapping, acting and singing in Spanish and teaches the cultures by dancing and drawing.


“I like her [teaching] tactics because the material stays in our heads,” junior Krystal Kosacki said. “We’re awake in class, and we get good grades.”


Living a full life before she got married at age 39 and having her first child at 43, Roybal encourages her students to live by what she calls the 6 steps to life.


“My philosophy in a nut shell is one, get your college degree. Two, get your career in gear. Three, travel because you’re going to learn about a lot of different people, and their experiences that will carry you through all the difficult times.  Four, get an apartment with someone of the same sex or alone, because you will learn to pay your bills and to depend on yourself and if you don’t have any money at the end of the month, you are going to be eating peanut butter sandwiches just like I did. Five, if you find a person that loves you and you love them and treats you well, then you get married. Six, if the marriage is going very well and you physically, mentally and emotionally, and financially can support a child, then have, and only then, have a child.”


Not only a Spanish teacher, but a talented person as a whole, Roybal will continue to share her passions and experiences with her students, giving them an enjoyable and entertaining education.