Olga Avina

Vilma Herrerra


Two dedicated early educators from the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District (NLMUSD) were honored with the Ninth Annual Golden Apple Awards in recognition of their outstanding service to young children and families: Vilma Herrera and Olga Avina.

Vilma Herrera, a twenty-two-year veteran educator, was commended for being one of the first to transition to teaching infants and toddlers when NLMUSD launched an Early Head Start program in 2017, and for her instrumental work in shaping the program in the five years since. Her service to her colleagues as a teachers’ union representative was also highlighted.

Olga Avina, a Head Start teacher, was lauded for going above and beyond to individualize her instructional strategies to reach all children in her classroom, especially those with behavioral challenges and disabilities. A positive presence in the classroom, she is also pursuing her master’s in early childhood education and representing early learning on a city commission.

A committee of child development and education experts selected this year’s recipients from a pool of outstanding nominees. Selection criteria included implementation of curriculum to fidelity, exemplary adult-child interactions, creativity in the classroom, and continuously improving practices to be a model for others.

LACOE Head Start and Early Learning Division Executive Director Luis Bautista noted “how fortuitous it is to be recognizing two teachers who were once Head Start parents.” As the nation faces a severe teacher shortage, Bautista continued, “It’s thrilling not only to honor these fine educators for their service to children and families, but also to recognize that they are an inspiration to others who follow in their footsteps.”

The awards were presented by LACOE Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo and Board President James Cross during the February 7 meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Education. LACOE awarded each recipient with $500 in classroom supplies from Lakeshore Learning, which also donated $300 worth of materials to each awardee. Norwalk-La Mirada USD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kristine Cvar was also on hand to show her support.

The two Golden Apple winners were selected from a remarkable group of dedicated teachers, including:

  • Ana Guerrero (Mountain View SD)
  • Brenda Lopez (Mountain View SD)
  • Nicholle Malave (Blind Children’s Center)
  • Faviola Vasquez (Children’s Institute)