fbpx Gabriella Zlaket is Riverside County's 1st '24 Educator of the Year
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Home / News / Education / Gabriella Zlaket is Riverside County’s 1st 2024 Educator of the Year

Gabriella Zlaket is Riverside County’s 1st 2024 Educator of the Year

by Staff
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Gabriella S. Zlaket, now in her 20th year working at her alma mater Arlington High School, was named 2024 Riverside County School Counselor of the Year, Office of Education officials announced Tuesday.

Superintendent of Schools Edwin Gomez’s first customary surprise visit was timed to coincide with National School Counseling Week, Office of Education spokesman Craig Petinak said. 

Six more surprise visits are planned throughout this month, and all honorees will be recognized at the 2024 Celebrating Educators Luncheon set for May 7, at the Riverside Convention Center, Petinak said.

Zlaket grew up as the daughter of a farmworker and immigrant family, according to the Office of Education. She graduated from Arlington High School in the Riverside Unified School District and went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University. 

Zlaket has been a school counselor at Arlington since 2003, where she advocates for the counseling position and provides students with personalized support. 

She employs a data-driven approach to identify lapses in student services and creates programs and systems aimed to help students graduate on time and be prepared for their future college and workforce careers — including in her role as the lead counselor for the school’s English Learners program. 

“Gabriella is described as someone with ‘a heart and soul about students and empowering them to achieve their goals and dreams,’” Petinak said.

“Gabriella is a tireless advocate for student empowerment and success,” Gomez said in a statement. “From engineering district wide counseling plans to advising national educational initiatives, Gabriella’s leadership and expertise have really reshaped the landscape of supporting students across Arlington High School, and across the district. Mrs. Zlaket has bridged gaps and elevated student achievement. Her unwavering commitment to student success, combined with her passion for advocacy and innovation, has left a huge impact on the community, on the students, on the staff.” 

After learning she is a 2024 honoree, Zlaket said:

“I came to this school (as a student). My life was changed by so many educators who took my hand and guided me and believed in me. And all that I’m doing, and all that my fantastic team and colleagues and school family are doing, is just paying it forward. 

“We are investing in our future because our kids are our future,” Zlaket continued. “Every day we show up for our students and we love them, we care for them, and we advocate for them. That is what every single school counselor does here. This is not my award, this is our team’s award, and our district’s award. And it’s an award for every school counselor supporting students nationwide.” 

The additional 2024 Riverside County Educators of the Year categories for which honorees have yet to be announced are certificated administrator of the year, classified employee of the year, site support employee of the year, classified administrator of the year, principal of the year and confidential employee of the year.

“The Riverside County Educators of the Year are selected from the more than 36,000 educational employees in the county,” Petinak explained. “The rigorous application process starts with nominations by teachers, classified employees, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee selects the honorees before the county superintendent announcement.”

Along with the 2024 Teachers of the Year, Educators of the Year will be honored at a luncheon set for May 7 at the Riverside Convention Center. 

The county’s 2024 Teachers of the Year were announced in mid-2023 to coincide with the 2023 California State Teacher of the Year competition, Petinak said. The 2025 Riverside County Teachers of the Year will be announced in May and June and will compete for the 2025 California State Teacher of the Year award that will be named in the fall by Tony Thurmond, California Department of Education superintendent.

The 2024 Riverside County Teachers of the Year are Marie Stevenson, a mathematics teacher at Rancho Mirage High School in the Palm Springs Unified School District; James Waedekin, an English teacher at New Horizon School, Banning USD; Lindsay Hill, a fourth grade teacher at Sundance Elementary School, Beaumont USD; and Lorena Morales, a mathematics/AVID teacher at La Sierra High School, Alvord USD.

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