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LAUP Names LA County Preschool Teachers of the Year

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) has selected this year’s “Preschool Teacher of the Year” recipients as well as the recipient of the Elizabeth Hamilton Lowe & Bob Weekley Child Advocacy Award.

This year marks the 9th Annual LAUP Preschool Teacher of the Year Awards. The countywide preschool teacher recognition acknowledges the quality, creativity and hard work of those who teach children during a time when, according to researchers, rapid brain development can be leveraged toward long-term academic achievement.

Winners hail from each of Los Angeles County’s five supervisorial districts and have gone “above and beyond” to provide excellent learning environments and classroom experiences for preschool children.  For the selection process, LAUP uses an external committee comprised of county officials and early education experts.

“This year we received the most/greatest number of nominations, providing the most competitive field yet. The submissions were filled with stories of inspiring career history and heartwarming anecdotes, proving once again that LA County can boast of the best and the brightest in early childhood education,” said LAUP’s CEO, Dr. Celia C. Ayala.

This year’s Preschool Teachers of the Year are:

  • District 1: Karina Rodriguez of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy ECE Center in Pico Union: With an education career spanning over 15 years, Rodriguez goes above and beyond for the predominantly low-income families she serves by enrolling them in healthcare and working closely with ESL learners.
  • District 2: Maria G. Cervantes of Moffett State Preschool in Lennox: 86% of her student population are English language learners; she believes family support as a life-force, and offers once a week parenting classes outside of her normal teaching schedule.
  • District 3: Sandy L. Chen of Canoga Park Early Education Center: A veteran in the early education field, Chen leads a “Preschool Collaborative Class” where children with special needs are integrated in the classroom.
  • District 4: Cynthia Gonzalez of Lydia Jackson Elementary, Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, in Whittier: The only Whittier-city school district auditory-oral preschool teacher, Gonzalez nurtures children that are deaf and hard of hearing.
  • District 5: Lizbeth Ruiz of The Glendale Disney Children’s Center: Resilient early educator, with a BA in Child and Adolescent Development, a Master’s in Organizational Leadership, and currently working on a second Master’s in Human Development. Ruiz is currently creating a non-profit organization that will build children’s centers in Latin American countries.

“We celebrate and thank the vital role these professionals play in supporting our youngest learners, who are the future of our nation,” said Dr. Ayala.

The recipients will be recognized at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration with a luncheon and awards ceremony hosted by LAUP and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in late May.

Also honored during this event will be Francie Alexander, who will receive the Elizabeth Hamilton Lowe & Bob Weekley Child Advocacy Award. Alexander is the Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer for the Intervention Solutions Group at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She has a previous tenure at Scholastic Inc., has authored almost 50 children’s books, and serves on multiple boards within the education sphere. Alexander follows the previous recipient of this award, Dr. Robert Ross of the California Endowment.

“Francie Alexander has set an example as a lifetime champion for children and parents,” said Ayala. “Her long legacy of service to education is inspiring to us all.”

All of the award winners, including Alexander, will receive an official LA County Proclamation from the Supervisors to commemorate their work and accomplishments.