PALMDALE – The California Head Start Association has announced Palmdale School District early childhood education instructor Simone Zulu as the 2015 Educator of the Year. Zulu will receive her award at a special recognition dinner this Thursday at the CHSA’s annual conference in Los Angeles.
For Zulu, the award is less about her as an individual and more about Palmdale’s early childhood education program as a whole.
“I am so proud of us,” said Zulu. “There is so much that our program offers our community, so much we do that many people don’t know about. I’m excited for the attention this will bring to our program and the services we offer.”
When the official announcement was made in December, Zulu received a surprise visit by Superintendent Raul Maldonado and Palmdale Elementary Teachers’ Association President Hugo Estrada.
“We are so proud of Ms. Zulu,” said Maldonado. “She is a long time Palmdale educator who has done magnificent things for the hundreds of students who have learned in her classroom over the years, as well as for our district as a whole.”
“She is very deserving,” said Estrada. “I can’t think of any other teacher that has worked as hard as she has for our students, school district and association.”
A graduate of Fresno State University, Zulu taught early childhood education in Fresno for 17 years before joining the Palmdale School District in 1996. For the last 17 years, she has taught at Palmdale’s center, located on the campus of Highland High School, a center she helped open.
Zulu’s path to early childhood education began when she started teaching as part of the Assumption Program of Loans for Education, or APLE Program, in which teachers can receive student loan forgiveness by teaching at schools serving low-income students.
“I fell in love with the families,” said Zulu, “especially the children.”
This love is evident in the way she works with her students in her classroom, helping them to make good decisions throughout the day.
The early childhood education program on the Highland High School campus is designed to assist working parents. Programs like these differ from day care in that there is a structured curriculum based on state guidelines that is followed. This prepares the young students for kindergarten.
“Many of our students come out of our program already knowing their letters, how to write their name and count to 100. Some are even beginning to read,” said Zulu.
At the Palmdale School District board meeting last month, Zulu was recognized by the District, the city of Palmdale, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and California State Assembly Member Tom Lackey.
Recipients of the CHSA’s Educator of the Year award must first be nominated by one of their peers or supervisors. Nominations are then evaluated by a panel to make the final selections.