Every year, Child360 honors outstanding early educators throughout Los Angeles County with the Annual Child360 Early Educator of the Year Awards. Nominations came from community members and parents, to colleagues in the classroom.
Meet this years’ winners:
Graciela Ceja, Ceja Family Child Care – South LA
Years teaching: 18
“This is the most important job: Educating young children and watching them blossom into competent people—not being part of the statistics already made for them.”
Graciela has a family childcare center in South Los Angeles. She 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. She is amidst expanding her program into a larger early learning facility, and pursuing her Master’s Degree, so she can serve even more children in her community.
Natali Gaxiola, Felton State Preschool – Lennox, CA
Years teaching: 17
“Although I can’t control the factors of life for these children, I can create a loving, nurturing and supportive environment. I can’t change their whole world, but I can change their world for the better, even if it is only for a few hours.”
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. Positive interactions and relationships are her priority, not only with her students but also their families. Every child has the capacity to learn and thrive, and her philosophy rests upon helping children find their unique connection to what they are learning.
Reema Suleiman, ABC Unified Palms School – Lakewood, CA
Years teaching: 15
”I chose this field because I believe that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. I love what I do.”
Reema is not just a preschool teacher, but also a heartfelt advocate for her fellow educators, the students she serves, and their families. Reema attributes her fervor and approach to life 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. This approach saturates and guides everything she touches, from being a preschool teacher and paying extra attention to the environment she creates, to being a mother and caring for her daughter during her fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, still finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Child Development.
Each winner will be recognized at a special celebratory event this June. In addition to the Dr. Celia C. Ayala Early Educator of the Year Award, they will be awarded a cash stipend through the Elizabeth Lowe / Bob Weekley Award for Excellence in Preschool Teaching endowment.
All of the award winners will receive an official LA County Proclamation from the Supervisors to commemorate their work and accomplishments. Congratulations to our winners!
About the Award:
For the past 11 years, Child360 has been honoring exceptional early educators in Los Angeles County with the Early Educator of the Year Awards. The award was open to preschool teachers and infant/toddler teachers ranging from family child care centers, school districts, and private and public facilities.
Infant/toddler and preschool teachers are helping shape young children’s lives during the most critical time in brain development. Yet, never before have the needs of young children and their families been more pressing. This award not only serves to honor their legacy and dedication to their profession, but to drive the conversation forward that all children deserve love and care in a learning environment.
Additional honorees this year include:
Donna Sneeringer, Director of Government Relations, Child Care Resource Center – Elizabeth Hamilton Lowe and Robert Weekley Child Advocacy Award
The Kindling Group & Siskel/Jacobs Productions, Co-Producers, No Small Matter – Uplift Award