Seventh annual Golden Apple Award selectee, Nancy Chavez, Head Start teacher from Children’s Institute, Inc.

Seventh annual Golden Apple Award selectee, Adriana Provens, Early Head Start teacher from Pomona USD.


Two outstanding early educators are the recipients of LACOE’s seventh annual Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence: Adriana Provens of Pomona USD and Nancy Chavez of Children’s Institute, Inc.

Provens, an Early Head Start home-based rover teacher for infants and toddlers, provides ongoing support to the entire home-based teaching team, including developing lesson plans, serving as a mentor, and covering other teachers’ caseloads whenever called upon.

Vicki Vazquez, coordinator of Early Head Start programs at Pomona USD, described Provens as “an extremely dedicated professional who strives for excellence in all aspects of our program.” Her peers, in turn, called Provens “a passionate, generous, dedicated, organized, and very resourceful teacher,” who is “very resourceful and always willing to lend a helping hand.”

Chavez, a Head Start preschool teacher, was recognized for going above and beyond in response to the pandemic. Daniela Troya, director of center-based services at Children’s Institute, noted that Chavez and her co-teacher “created virtual lesson plans and weekly interactive videos that… support the education and development of the children” in the early days of the pandemic. Once sites began to reopen, Chavez returned to in-person teaching at a new center where she provided leadership support by assisting and mentoring her colleagues.

Throughout this challenging year, “our teachers adapted to difficult and ever-changing circumstances to continue providing the best possible services to children and families,” noted Keesha Woods, LACOE Head Start and Early Learning executive director, during the awards ceremony. “LACOE is blessed with many extraordinary educators across the county who have risen to this challenge, and it’s an honor today to recognize two of the best.”

In light of the pandemic, eligibility for the Golden Apple this year was expanded to include all early educators—including mentors, coaches, and home visitors, as well as teachers—and several impressive individuals were nominated. A committee of child development and education experts selected the two recipients based on excellence in showing dedication to children, creating positive environments, mentoring their peers, and adapting to unforeseen challenges to serve children and families.

“Thanks to teachers like Adriana and Nancy, we are closing the achievement gap to give all children—and I underscore all children—an opportunity to succeed, regardless of the challenges they may face,” added LACOE Deputy Superintendent Arturo Valdez.

The awards were presented during the January 12 meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Education. LACOE awarded each recipient with $500 in classroom supplies from Lakeshore Learning, which also donated $250 worth of materials to each awardee.

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

  • Natalie Casillas (Mountain View SD)
  • Maria EC Castillo (St. Anne’s)
  • Imelda Aparicio (Bassett USD)
  • Juana Cruz (St. Anne’s)
  • Norma Rauda (Pomona USD)
  • Christine Najar (Norwalk-La Mirada USD)
  • Mary Sanchez (Bassett USD)
  • Sandra Valdez-Soriano (ABC USD)
  • Jaicy B. Gonzalez (Children’s Institute, Inc.)