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Child360 Announces 2019 Early Educator of the Year Honorees Historic Moment In California With Renewed Focus on Early Education

Child360, a leading non-profit who supports early learning from every angle, selects three recipients for the 12th annual Dr. Celia C. Ayala Early Educator of the Year Award, who will be honored at The Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Tuesday, June 18. The Los Angeles County-wide teacher recognition acknowledges the quality, creativity and hard work of those who teach and care for Los Angeles’ youngest children, ages 0-5.

“More than eighty-five percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years of life – honoring the teachers who nurture this critical time of learning and discovery elevates the workforce and is a step in the right direction to giving them the praise and appreciation they deserve,” says William Sperling, CEO, Child360. “On behalf of the Child360 organization, we are proud to recognize each of these inspiring early educators and their exemplary programs. Each in their own unique way are laying the foundation these children deserve: to thrive in school, to be healthy and happy, and to know there is always a trusted adult advocating for them.”

This recognition comes at a historic moment in California, with a monumental shift in how the Governor is prioritizing young children and their families. The governor has proposed more than $2 billion in funding for comprehensive child development services, paving the way for more parents to be there the first time their newborn smiles, for more teachers to advance their professional goals, and for more young children to have the opportunity to learn in a classroom setting, alongside their peers.

Each Dr. Celia C. Ayala Early Educator of the Year awardee will be recognized at this special Child360 celebratory event. Each awardee will also recieve a cash stipend through the Elizabeth Lowe/Bob Weekley Award for Excellence in Preschool Teaching endowment and an official LA County Proclamation from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to commemorate their work and accomplishments. The 2019 award recipients are:

Graciela Ceja, Ceja Family Child Care – South LA
Years teaching: 18
At her family owned childcare center in South Los Angeles, Graciela takes a child-centered approach that honors children’s initiative and culture, and builds upon their concepts of the world around them. Her home program is often the first experience her students have with the English language, and she is committed to helping the children in her care erase and rewrite the statistics of their neighborhoods.

Natali Gaxiola, Felton State Preschool – Lennox, CA
Years teaching: 17
Natali is committed to providing a safe place for the children in her care. As a child, school was her solace, and she wants to provide the same loving, nurturing, and supportive environment that she knows will change their world for the better – as it did for her.

Reema Suleiman, ABC Unified Palms School – Lakewood, CA
Years teaching: 15
Reema is a heartfelt advocate for her fellow educators, the students she serves, and their families. Reema attributes her fervor and approach to teaching to the environment she grew-up in, in the Middle East; the challenges she faced mobilized her to be productive and to consistently work hard to improve her quality of life, and the lives of those around her.

Child360 will also honor, Donna Sneeringer, Director of Government Relations, Child Care Resource Center: Elizabeth Hamilton Lowe and Robert Weekley Child Advocacy Award; and The Kindling Group & Siskel/Jacobs Productions – Co-Producers, No Small Matter: Uplift Award.

Child360 received more than 100 applications, with heartfelt nominations from community members, parents and collegues in the classroom. The award was open to preschool teachers and infant/toddler teachers ranging from family child care centers, school districts, and private and public facilities.

“These are exciting times for Child360, our partners and all of us working in the early learning field. With more resources, we can truly make significant impacts in the lives of Califorina’s earliest learners,” Sperling adds. “By taking a comprehensive approach – empowering teachers, engaging families, and strengthening communities – we ensure all children are cared for, happy and thriving. ”