CII Head Start Teacher Nancy Chavez Lugo Receives Prestigious Golden Apple Award

January 22, 2021
Rebecca Hutchinson

Nancy Chavez Lugo has been teaching for only two years but she has already received a top honor for her dedication to early childhood education. On January 12, she was presented with the Seventh Annual Golden Apple Award from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). The award recognizes “exceptional early childhood educators who find new ways to engage families and children, create meaningful learning interactions, and excel in teaching and leadership.”

Nancy, who is a Head Start teacher at Children’s Institute’s Watts VI campus, was very surprised when she got the news, but her site supervisor, Dana Henderson, certainly was not. Dana describes Nancy as a very hard worker who goes above and beyond her job, constantly trying to improve herself. When CII students returned to the Watts VI center at the end of September, Nancy took over for Dana, who was out on leave. She rolled up her sleeves and created weekly interactive videos aligned with the curriculum, mentored her peers, wrote reports, oversaw sanitation and logistics for meals, and created the safety and health plan for re-entry that is still in use. “Nancy did everything a site supervisor would do plus her own job and was excellent. It’s like she’s a seasoned teacher; she always takes the initiative and is a pleasure to work with and very patient with both children and parents,” Dana said.

LACOE’s Head Start and Early Learning Division Executive Director Keesha Woods elaborated as she presented Nancy with the Golden Apple Award at a recent (virtual) LACOE Board meeting: “Nancy is a driven, organized teacher who’s whole teaching approach involves finding and using children’s unique strengths to help overcome their struggles and develop a positive self-concept…Over the past year, we seen just how difficult teaching infants, toddlers and preschoolers can be and just how vital this work is to children, parents, communities, and even the health of our economy… LACOE is blessed with many extraordinary educators across the county who have risen to this challenge and it’s an honor today to recognize the very best.”

Nancy always wanted to be a teacher. She attended Cal State LA to follow her passion and study child development. She began teaching three years ago at CII’s Western site for her practicum and liked the work so much that she continued to sub while finishing her BA. After graduating, she was excited to embark on her teaching career as a full-time teacher at CII. Nancy describes herself as a very mellow person and believes that translates into patience while teaching.

Because she lives in a neighborhood similar to where her students live, Nancy feels she can understand their viewpoint and enjoys being able to help them and the community. “We never know what they go through at home so it’s important to be there for them. School is a sense of community.” It comes as no surprise that the past year has been extremely challenging for teachers and families, which made Nancy’s recognition all the more special. About teaching during the pandemic, Nancy said, “Zoom is hard on both teachers and the kids. We can do our one-one-ones but kids can’t interact with other kids – there’s no sharing or borrowing, you can’t say ‘go ask your classmate for that toy,’ they can’t be social. It’s so different.” The Golden Apple Award has kept Nancy motivated to get through these difficult times.

At the LACOE Board meeting, CII’s President & CEO Martine Singer was acknowledged alongside Nancy for CII’s continued support of early education. “We are so proud of Nancy winning the Golden Apple Award! Teachers are the backbone of CII and it’s thanks to professionalism and dedication like hers that we are able to make a difference in so many children’s lives.”

As a congratulations, Nancy received $750 worth of Lakeshore Learning classroom supplies.