Wendy Lucia Lozano and Joseph Zeccola

Wendy Lucia Lozano, a fifth-grade teacher at Canoga Park Elementary School, is one of 22 Los Angeles Unified School District instructors named a LAUSD Teacher of the Year.

She is also one of five LAUSD instructors — along with Joseph Zeccola, a high school English and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies — now qualified for the Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year competition, which is part of the California and National Teachers of the Year programs.

“I was very honored and proud (when notified),” said Lozano, who grew up and still lives in Van Nuys, and who describes herself as a “product of LAUSD” by having attended and graduating from Irwin Street Elementary, Mulholland Middle School and Van Nuys High School.

A first-generation college graduate, Lozano initially had designs of becoming an attorney.

“I first wanted to be a lawyer with an interest in [fighting] juvenile delinquency. I wanted to be an advocate for low-income kids entering the juvenile justice system because I felt they were falling victims to a criminal pipeline as opposed to college pipeline,” she said.

But during a pre-law class at UC Irvine —where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology, law and society — Lozano said she learned something that altered her career path toward teaching.

“Criminologists agree that a good education is the best deterrent to keep people out of jail,” she said. “I felt that, as a teacher, I could keep [students] out for jail rather than be an attorney and helping them while they were in jail.”

Lozano, who has been teaching for nine years, completed her teacher preparation at California State University, Northridge where she earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Master of Arts in Education. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.

One of her greatest joys, Lozano said, is watching her students internalize a growth mindset and embrace the challenge to pursue a higher education so they can empower themselves, their families, and their communities.

“I hope I can be a role model for LAUSD students and who can also be first generation college grads,” Lozano said. “LAUSD has given me the opportunity to empower students to improve their academics and believe in themselves. We do it through good teaching practices, meaningful interaction and modeling a growth mindset. That is something our district has taught us.”

Zeccola has an English credential and National Board Certification in English. He completed his teacher preparation with TeachLA through Center X at UCLA.

He said his greatest joy in life is watching students discover their own powerful voices, as they learn to articulate their ideas, and express themselves as scholars and agents of change.

Both will find out in September  about the county Teacher of the Year competition. 

Other Valley area teachers honored by the district as a Teacher of the Year include:

— Christina Bludau, third-grade teacher at Sherman Oaks Elementary Charter School;

— Jason Hayes, English and theatre instructor at Monroe High School; and

— Erin Sopapunta, 11th grade English teacher at Poly High School.