Poway Unified School District is home to three winners in the 2022 Administrators of the Year for San Diego and Imperial counties, awarded by the Association of California School Administrators.
Valley Elementary School Principal Ricardo Ceceña has been named Elementary Principal of the Year. Poway Unified Superintendent Marian Kim Phelps and others surprised Ceceña recently to tell him that he had won the award.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized. I’m truly honored and humbled.”
Also awarded were Lana Nguyen, director of educational technology, for Technology Administrator of the Year and Rancho Bernardo High Assistant Principal Yael Bozzay for Secondary Co-Administrator of the Year.
Recipients of the awards are chosen based on their demonstration of exceptional leadership, commitment to educational quality, professional growth and student achievement, as well as displaying creativity and innovation in overcoming issues facing public education, according to the Association of California School Administrators. All three honorees will be celebrated at the association’s Honoring Our Own Gala on May 7.
Ceceña has led Valley Elementary in Poway since 2015. Previous to this role, he was a Poway Unified elementary school teacher and administrator for more than 15 years. He said the award reflects the school as a whole and his team.
“Every staff member here at Valley is making a huge difference for our students and their families,” Ceceña said.
He said he is committed to opening access to high quality educational experiences for all students regardless of income, family background or language ability. Valley Elementary is a Title I school and PUSD’s only Spanish immersion campus.
During the pandemic, Ceceña developed the Valley Tiger Student Wellness Task Force with a goal to remove any barriers to learning, such as internet access, technology tools, food insecurity or parent education. He brought innovative, research-based programs that promote rigorous learning in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects to his traditionally underserved, underrepresented students, the association said.
It was under his leadership that Valley became the first elementary school in the district to be recognized as a Project Lead the Way Distinguished School, a program that provides students with access to high quality, relevant STEM curriculum.
Nguyen has served as the director of educational technology for Poway Unified since 2017. Over the past four and a half years, Nguyen has transformed student learning and staff professional development in PUSD, the association said. She helped launch the award-winning PUSD Voyager Program, a research-based coaching model that provides teachers professional development in the area of blending technology with in-person learning.
Nguyen promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing and sustaining the use of new educational technology, the association said. This includes coordinating districtwide professional learning, training and support in and out of classrooms.
Bozzay has been assistant principal at Rancho Bernardo High School since 2014. For nearly eight years she has shown a passion for empowering success for all students, specifically those struggling academically or socially on her campus, the association said. Through her efforts to increase access and equity, she has helped improve support for English learners, add interventions for disadvantaged youth, increase the number of collaboration and learning-supported classes, and reduce stand-alone special education classes, as part of the school’s inclusive practices model.
Bozzay’s leadership has also resulted in the expansion of social and emotional wellness programs for students addressing timely and difficult topics, including suicide prevention and drug use, the association said. She served on the Anti-Defamation League’s Education Committee and recently completed her doctorate, focusing her dissertation on the teacher’s role to reduce the achievement gap for Black students.