Innovative Teacher Gets PTA Award


Erica Zacarias knows a thing or two about elementary school children. The 35-year teaching veteran, whose reputation for creativity and excellence is widely heralded, has devoted her life to getting pupils excited about learning.

So it was a surprise to no one but the teacher from Darby Avenue Elementary School in Northridge that she was one of three honorable-mentions for the 1999 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Educator Award.

“I’m humbled to have been picked for the award,” the fifth-grade teacher said. “I love teaching; the job is very fulfilling. It’s gratifying to see young people mature and learn the value of themselves.”

Principal Noney O’Banion said the Darby PTA nominated Zacarias for the prestigious award because of her flexibility and creativity in the classroom. Among the exceptional programs she has established is the humanities program--which includes a study of classical composers and trips to area museums. She also has received several local and state awards for her mathematics program.


Zacarias said she is especially proud of the level of parent participation she generates, in an era when working parents aren’t readily available. Those “team members” have allowed her to create an individualized math studies program, among others.

“Erica has so much energy and enthusiasm, it’s catching,” O’Banion said. “She just celebrates children.”


Capitol Idea: The first contingent of a group of Valley high school students left for Washington, D.C., last week, where they will rub elbows with lawmakers and journalists at the National Young Leaders Conference. Sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, the conference runs through August, with students spending six days at a time on Capitol Hill.


Students from Louisville High School in Woodland Hills, Campbell Hall School in North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Reseda, Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Cleveland Humanities Magnet High School in Reseda, Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City and El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills will interact with key government leaders and members of the diplomatic corps during their trip to the nation’s capital.

The 42 juniors and seniors--selected on the basis of scholastic merit and leadership potential--will be among 350 student leaders nationwide at a session of the House of Representatives. They also will meet with journalists and participate in a mock Congress.


Art Award: A junior from Taft High School in Woodland Hills has won the Congressional Arts Competition for California’s 24th Congressional District. A still life by Hyun-Woo Lim, 17, will hang in the U.S. Capitol for one year, alongside the art of the other winners, each of whom represents one of the nation’s 435 congressional districts.



The Las Virgenes Unified School District has named Sheila Grady principal of Bay Laurel Elementary School and Karen Hansen principal of Sumac Elementary School. Both schools are in Calabasas. The two educators are veteran elementary school teachers, who last year served as administrative interns and assistant principals at the elementary level.


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