La Mirada – Two Head Start teachers from the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District are being recognized for excellence with Golden Apple awards by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). LACOE Superintendent Arturo Delgado bestowed the honor on Regina Roberts and Maria Valenzuela in a special ceremony on Jan. 12.

Roberts and Valenzuela were cited for bringing innovative practices into classrooms and their passion for working with children at risk. Along with the Golden Apple, each teacher received $500 in classroom supplies.

“We are extremely honored to receive such a prestigious award for a second consecutive year,” NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian said. “We applaud the leadership and innovation provided by Roberts and Valenzuela, while acknowledging the superlative effort brought forth by our entire preschool team every single day.”

The award was created by LACOE in 2014 to reward excellence among Head Start educators. Norwalk-La Mirada’s Hilda Bracamontes-Colon was one of two teachers recognized during the Golden Apple’s first presentation in November 2015.

Roberts is an Early Head Start, home-based teacher at the Ramona Center in Norwalk, where she has taught for last four of her more than 17 years as a Head Start instructor. Roberts excels in developing new methods and teaching strategies that will enhance children’s learning and development. Roberts’ eagerness to learn new practices led her to join the Home Base Action Team and help strengthen the 0-5 home-based program.

“Her lesson plans consistently reflect individualization for the child and parent, and are truly matched to the needs of both,” Head Start State Preschool Division Director Keesha Woods said. “This is evident in the number of her assigned families who attend socializations. Oftentimes, she has 100 percent of her families in attendance.”

Valenzuela, an NLMUSD teacher for 22 years and a Head Start teacher for 16, was cited for consistent gains in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). In the past two years, Valenzuela’s CLASS scores have increased across the board, with the most improvement in the area of instructional support. Valenzuela also offers critical support and assistance to colleagues completing their CLASS assessments.

“Maria’s classroom is a positive, productive place to learn, whether you are a preschool child, a colleague or a practicum student,” NLMUSD Preschool Program Director Laurel Parker said. “She is an exemplary preschool teacher and is very deserving of the LACOE Golden Apple.”

The Golden Apples awarded to Roberts and Valenzuela come just ahead of the District’s 50th anniversary of its Head Start program, scheduled for Feb. 26.

“This is a tremendous gift for our program, but the real winners are the children and families we serve,” NLMUSD School Board President Karen Morrison said.

“We provide a vital service to the Norwalk-La Mirada community, preparing the kids for their first day of school and helping them to be successful learners through high school and beyond. We will continue our total commitment to providing the best support possible to ensure our students have access to a high-quality education from start to finish.”

Photo caption: Norwalk-La Mirada USD Early Head Start Coordinator Alina Lucero, Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian, and Golden Apple Award winners Maria Valenzuela and Regina Roberts at L.A. County Office of Education awards event on Jan. 12.