2016 Honor an Educator Honorees

2016 Honor an Educator Honorees

Kristi Almeida-Bowin

 “Strong advocate”, “mentor”, “motivator”, “passionate”, “positive influence”, “she’s always got your back” – just some words from former students and colleagues when asked to describe Kristi. There are ECE professionals in Ventura County who made it a point to say that although they never had Kristi as an instructor, she knew about them and what they stood for in the field of early childhood education. This is a gift of hers. She could identify your strengths and help you to look beyond conventional roles in ECE to use those strengths to benefit children and families. She encourages everyone to do their best and inspires us to give back to the next generation of caregivers and educators.

Besides teaching at Oxnard and CSUN Kristi has been an ECE professor at Moorpark College since 2000. She will retire in June. As faculty advisor she was instrumental in the formation of the 1st Moorpark Child Development Club at the college. She is also the campus coordinator for the CA Early Childhood Mentor Program. She collaborated with VCAEYC on several professional development workshops. Kristi’s passion has always been infants and toddlers and children with special needs. Her love and respect for children and families spreads across our county like ripples in a pond. Her passion has served to make us all better. Kristi leaves an amazing legacy for us to build on.

Nominated by Ventura County AEYC


Yuju Patricia Chen

Yuju Chen was born in Taiwan in 1970 and raised by two art parents. She received a Master’s in Fine Art from Long Island University and had completed numerous exhibitions around the world. In 2009, Typhoon Marokot took the lives of more than 619 people and caused terrible damage in a total of $3.3 billion. Yuju worked with Jenny Yen and Shu-Nu Yen to create a social story to comfort the youngest victims. In 2013, when typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines, Yuju’s work was translated into Tagalog and was able to use her pictures to reassure many young typhoon victims about their safety. Yuju was generous in her time and worked on the book with the authors in a timely manner. Yuju is to be commended for using her pictures to fulfill young children’s psychological needs.

Nominated by Yafen Lo


Oy Christian

Oy joined Immanuel CDC as Infant classroom assistant while taking Child Development Courses during the year 2004. Since then Oy developed a passion for young Infants care and development. Working in the same room as an assistant teacher, she finished her course work within a year to become an Infant Teacher. In 2006 was promoted as the Teacher for the Crib Infant classroom. She never moved out of that room as she felt it was her calling to be the young babies care provider. Oy completed 10 years as a young Infant Teacher. She has a very calm and gentle personality that perfectly suited the young infants. With her gentle personality and quality care she quickly bonds with the new Infants that get enrolled in her classroom. All the classroom families feel very secure to leave their young babies with Oy because their babies are left in safe, caring and loving hands. She keeps daily communication with the families and keeps them informed of their infant’s progress. As a lead teacher for her classroom, she pays personal attention to all the babies and ensures all the babies are well taken care of by all the staff in her classroom. She pays close attention to the infant’s growth and development and provides age appropriate activities that promote the whole child development. Oy also is a great mentor for the Associate and Assistant Teachers that are hired for the Infant classroom. When new staff for the infant program is hired, they get on-the-floor training with Oy in her classroom. Oy is a very valuable staff to our infant program who is very dedicated to caring for young infants. As she is a very dependable, hardworking, and conscientious staff who deserves appreciation, honor and recognition for her commitment to young children’s growth and development, we at Immanuel CDC – the Board members, Program Staff and families would like to honor Oy Christian with the “Early Childhood Educator Honor.”

Nominated by Hadassah Ratna Rajaratnam


Paula Cole

When I first met Paula Cole, she was quiet, but always so nurturing towards the little ones at the Fullerton College Child Care Infant Room. The children always seem to gravitate towards her and seek her out when they would get hurt. She has a way of making children that enter the program feel comfortable, cared for and heard. She goes out of her way to understand the needs of the families and wants to get to know where they are coming from. These are all qualities I always admired of Paula.

Over the years we have been through many changes; directors, teachers, children in the program, even going from a Child Care Center to a Lab School. We never thought we would adjust, but look at us now. Our director who will not be able to attend, wanted to make sure I put in something on his behalf.

From Tom: Paula, I am so proud of you. You deserve this award and have worked so hard for it. Congratulations and this is only the beginning.

Paula, as your co-teachers, I know we are all so proud of you. It has been amazing to see Paula grow from a quiet, reserved teacher, to a strong, confident teacher. She provides experiences that the children can’t wait to explore and go home discussing their projects with Teacher Paula. She listens to their needs, and never hesitates to use her own money to provide the extras to make the children’s learning extra special.

I still strive to be the teacher that all the little ones run to when they are injured and gravitate towards when they need a little extra love, but I think that position at the Lab School will forever be taken by Paula. The little ones just love her as much as we do. Congratulations Paula!

Nominated by Veronica Hernandez and Tom Chiaromonte


Amber Daniels

Amber Daniels earned her Masters in Community Organizing Social Work from University of Michigan in 1995. She worked in Detroit, Mexico and California before she passed away in November, 2015 at the age of 45. At the celebration of her life, Amber’s friends spoke of her as mentor, model, being present to each person.

“Though the world is darker today, it’s by orders of magnitude a brighter place because Amber lived – and made a difference in it.” Kevin

“Thank you so much for all you gave to me and the world in your too-short-life. Adam (Angie’s husband) said to me that he could live another 43 years and still not touch a quarter of the lives you did, Amber. You drew people to you wherever you went and gave so much of yourself to them. I pray that we will work harder to learn from you and do the same.” Angie

“Everything good I do for a child is rooted somehow in what I learned from her. She is the first person who encouraged me to use strength-based views of children – and taught me through her actions what it meant to practice that view in a deep and loving way.” Gretchen

“Amber was one of those people who could draw you into a relationship so easily…she was engaging, funny and caring, but she also gave of herself and her time in ways that gave me the experience that she was truly present…she helped me through my social work degree.” Carla

“Amber was a connector. A string of spiritual energy. A constant reminder of the need to check one’s values and purpose…a woman whose light warmed those around her…welcoming and loving and a little crazy and vulnerable and devoid of BS…modeling for me and many others how to truly heal ourselves, individually and collectively, through compassionate, loving honesty…She Showed Up to give of herself, her time, her labor, her skills…over and over again…Someone who encouraged me to sing loudly and often…Her fingerprints are all over my soul.” Sarah

One colleague said what she heard from Amber over and over again, was, “What can I do for you?” We can learn a lot from that question.

Nominated by Marilyn Shelton


Angela Greathouse

I would like to nominate Angela Greathouse as Educator of the Year.

I have been fortunate to have had Ms. Angela as my mentor during my Child Development Practicum at Los Angeles Harbor College for the 2015/2016 school year. I love the way Ms. Angela always takes time out to help her student teachers. She offers her undivided attention as well as so many great ideas for DAP activities that she has gained over her years of experience in Child Development. Being her student-teacher has been a great experience and I’m inspired to see how she herself continues to pursue higher levels of professional development. Watching the students in her class grow and develop has been so rewarding, as has getting to know the families and community of the school.

I am so thankful to have worked in her classroom and with her staff. I know as I continue to study Child Development, I will feel more confident in my skills as an educator because of the hands-on experience and guidance I received from Ms. Angela.

Ms. Angela works extremely hard and is an inspiration. I believe she deserves to be honored as Educator of the Year.

Nominated by Christina Talleda


Melissa Lee

Melissa is an emergent leader in the early childhood field, even though she is only 17 years old. Melissa has done remarkable work serving preschool children in low-income neighborhoods in the USA, Mexico and Taiwan. She organizes the annual trip to schools and orphanages in Mexico. She creates lesson plans and travels to different elementary and middle schools in Orange County to teach children about recycling and the necessity of banning the use of plastic bags. In addition, when the deadliest typhoon hit Taiwan in 2010, she also travelled to the disaster area in Taiwan to help comfort the youngest typhoon victims. Melissa’s work already had a significant impact on underprivileged children; she has the greatest potential to be an excellent early childhood educator in the future and truly deserves the recognition. 

Nominated by Jenny Yen


Heather Manchester

Mrs. Manchester is a teacher at Santiago Hills Elementary school, Irvine, CA. My son is fortunate to learn from her for one year, and she has prepared my son well for his life journey. Mrs. Manchester has fostered my son's love for writing, math, and technology. Most importantly, she has instilled in him a positive attitude toward learning. While serving as her room representative, I learned to appreciate her even more. She took the lead on many of the 6th-grade activities without complaining despite her hectic schedule. She is to be commended for her kindness toward the children in her class and people around her. She has inspired thousands of children, especially girls, to reach their greatest potential. She is one of the best teachers in the world!

Nominated by Jenny Yen


Farbod Markazi

Farbod Markazi has been working to educate and support children's growth since he was a child himself. Starting as a Youth Leader for Orange County Peace Camp, his passion for creating change was evident from the beginning. Farbod played an integral role in re-building the Youth Leader program by helping to encourage his fellow leaders, taking initiative in planning and running community events, and by applying his critical thinking skills to improving the lives of children throughout Orange County.

As Peace Camp has grown and developed in the recent years, Farbod’s contributions have been crucial to our continued success. In leading the newly-created Intern program, Farbod has been helping to ensure the future of Orange County Peace Camp. In November 2015, Farbod travelled to Florida to present at the NAEYC Conference showcasing grassroots impacts on the lives of children. Farbod’s commitment and dedication to supporting young children has made a tremendous impact on their lives.

Nominated by Anna Page


Faraz Markazi

Much like his older brother, Faraz has been a peace activist since he was very young. As he has grown up at camp, we have all been able to see the special qualities that make Faraz a champion for children. We have seen his creativity flourish, as he helps create new ways to empower kids. We have seen his compassion as he cares for and comforts new campers who are nervous in a new place. We have seen his courage when he leads the entire camp in activities.

Faraz embodies the qualities and traits that we, as Early Childhood Educators, hope to find in all young people. He has taken the curricula and goals of Peace Camp and helped to expand them, to make them even more effective. His dedication is unmatched, and his focus unwavering. We have seen so many great things from Faraz in the last 9 years, but we know that the sky is the limit for this young man. While some people might believe that Faraz is far too young to be an educator, they clearly have not met him.

Nominated by Anna Page


Marilyn McGrath

Marilyn McGrath served as the CAEYC President from 2009-2011. During her tenure, Marilyn attracted many excellent early childhood educators to the CAEYC board. As an early childhood professor, her genuine and caring teaching approach inspires and motivates many college students and emergent early childhood leaders. She brought her love of teaching to the CAEYC board and strengthen the caring atmosphere. She truly embraces diversity and has an "open door" policy to her students and board members. She is also fun to hang out with as she fosters relationships through a playful demeanor. I admire her leadership and interpersonal intelligence. She truly deserves the recognition.

Nominated by Jenny Yen


Zahra Naseem

Zahra Naseem is an infant teacher since 2011 as result of a promotion with Grossmont College Child Development Center, El Cajon, California.

Her peers respect Zahra’s leadership. She is a problem solver and proactive when it comes to issues in the program. Zahra has grown professionally in many ways to support the children, families and her peers. She continues to use new information to support children’s daily learning experiences. Zahra is fully certified in the Program for Infant Toddler Care. She uses her creativity and resourcefulness, resulting in a rich experience for the infants and toddlers in her classroom.

Zahra is a dedicated, sincere, professional whose ability to be reflective, allows her to learn from her experiences, in turn providing solid mentorship to other’s in the field.

Nominated by Michelle Soltero


The Nest Master Teachers: Jesse Beltran, Paula Mei Fernandez, and Janet Dimas

As a new parent, we are nervous leaving our infant child to strangers. From the first day I brought Lily to her classroom, I felt at ease with these compassionate teachers. The Nest at Cal State Fullerton’s Children’s Center is Lily’s home away from home and Jesse, Paula and Janet are her adoptive mothers. They care for her just as if I were to be with her. They are attentive to all children through play, stories and music. The infants are smiling, laughing and having a great time learning how to sign, singing new songs, exploring new materials, or simply being silly.

Thanks to these wonderful teachers, I have been able to continue my education and work knowing that Lily is well cared for and happy. These infants will truly have a bright future thanks to these outstanding educators!

Nominated by Ana Page


Margot Palacios

It is my honor and privilege to recommend that we honor Margot Palacios as an educator here today. Originally from Bolivia, this wonderful woman began her career working with children and families as a family child care provider in Oxnard, California. Since then she has positively impacted students and families as a preschool teacher, as a home based educator and as an Assistant Manager for Early Head Start. While raising her own family, she completed her bachelor’s degree at Pacific Oaks College where she became even more passionate about the work she does with children and families. Daily she supports, trains, and inspires the work of others in the field of early care and education with her knowledge and great understanding of cultural competence. I am so blessed to work alongside her on a daily basis, and learn from her vision for improving the quality of child care for all children and well as the professional development for all family child care providers in our community. Please join me in honoring this educator, Margot Palacios from Child Development Resources Inc. of Ventura County.

Nominated by Cynthia Price


Jennifer Parker

 “Be who you needed when you were younger.” For more than 22 years, Jennifer Parker has been that “who”. She taught parent/child classes at the Adult School in Simi Valley. Working with parents long before there was DAP she just had a feeling for what was “right”. Jennifer is the “who” for her college students, many of whom are not necessarily “younger” in age, but in experience in the field of early education. She reminds them they are the “stage managers” for the children; there to support the children’s experiences. She continues today to be the “who” inspiring us in Ventura County.

Jennifer always wanted to be a teacher. Her focus, High School Math, until as a parent she was introduced to the early childhood education field. She’s been involved in First 5, LCAP, and Ventura County T-K committee. She develops and presents math and science workshops in Ventura County, at NAEYC and at CAEYC Conference. She’s helped revise the draft for the Science Domain of the CA Preschool Learning Foundations. She’s co-authored a textbook, “Caring for School Age Children”. She’s been teaching college courses at Moorpark, Santa Monica, and Ventura College for the better part of 20 years. She will “officially” retire this June.

Jennifer’s influence in those early ECE classes inspires many incredible early childhood teachers. Not only in interactions with children and families – but also how we must take care of ourselves - “Take care of your knees!” We know that only so much teaching happens in the classroom. And because of that we know that her inspiration will remain with us even though she no longer uses a syllabus. She will always expect us to teach with intentionality, keep our eyes out of the “book” and on what’s happening right in front of us. We don’t want to miss anything!

Nominated by Ventura County AEYC


Michelle Soltero

Michelle Soltero served as the CAEYC President from 2001-2003. During her tenure, Michelle led CAEYC and local affiliates through a challenging process of restructuring with NAEYC. After a decade, Michelle is once again serving on CAEYC's National Dialogue Committee leading California and local affiliates to a new restructuring process. She is to be commended for her leadership of California's early childhood educators. Michelle is also highly involved with her local AEYC and CAEYC's Public Policy Committee, and she has devoted her life advocating for infants, toddlers, and young children. She has inspired many young professionals in the early childhood field. 

Nominated by Jenny Yen


Veronica Sylvia

Veronica started working at Immanuel CDC since 2005 as a classroom Assistant. She quickly developed an interest in working with young children and started taking Early Care and Education courses. She attended school while working full time and within two years she completed course work to become a Teacher. She was promoted to the Teachers position as an Infant Teacher and continued with the same group of children until they left to the Kindergarten Program. Now Veronica is with the second set of students that started with her in the Infant program and are currently moving into the Pre-K program. Veronica is an asset to Immanuel CDC. She maintains a great relationship with families and provides excellent care and education to all the children in her care. She is very caring and affectionate towards each and every child in her care. She always finds a positive way to handle difficult, challenging children. Parents are always welcomed in her classroom and she gives them opportunities to plan and participate in the classroom activities. Veronica is hard working, dependable and can be counted on when a need arises at the center. She always looks for ways to provide high quality care and education for the children. When we went through our program NAEYC accreditation process, Veronica’s classroom was one of the classrooms inspected by the NAEYC Assessor. She scored 107/100 for her classroom, portfolio, activities she performed with the children and the Assessor made special commendations for her classroom in the report. She works tirelessly and puts her heart, mind and soul in all that she does for the children in her care. She is a great role model and mentor to the other staff in our program. She represents our program in the community activities and plans activities for the children’s fair every year. In view of her dedication to young children’s care and education and her service to Immanuel Child Development Program for the last 10 years all the Board members, Program Staff and families would like to Honor Veronica Sylvia for the “Early Childhood Educator Honor.”

Nominated by Hadassah Ratna Rajaratnam


Dayna Turner

When we honor Educators, we honor some for excellence in their work with children. We honor others for their achievements in Higher Education. Still others are honored for their ability to support the families in their communities, or for their advocacy efforts in our field. I am nominating Dayna Turner for “Honor an Educator” as I (along with the board of EBAEYC) believe she deserves recognition for her efforts in all of these areas.

Dayna is a well-respected Montessori teacher in the Bay Area. She is a Mentor Teacher with the CA Early Childhood Mentor Program and currently serves as a member of the Statewide Mentor Caucus Steering Committee. She holds a Masters of Arts in Early Childhood Education from St. Mary’s College.

As the grandmother of a special needs child, Dayna was inspired to create, as her Master’s Project, a “guidebook” for parents and caregivers of special needs children. She has made this resource available to the parents at her school as well as to other families in need of this information within her community.

Ms. Turner is a dedicated member of EBAEYC and a member of the EBAEYC board. She helped organize a “Special Needs” conference at Chabot College and has advocated for special needs children in presentations at the state as well as the local level.

Dayna already receives recognition in her community but I feel strongly that others in our field should know about her proficiency and dedication. I am proud to nominate Dayna for this state recognition through CAEYC.

Nominated by East Bay AEYC