Mark Marano said he used a negative to create a positive in the world of education.
“I watched my younger sister have a hard time in school and was inspired to become a teacher so that I could be the kind of educator she never had,” Marano said, “a positive and responsive one, dedicated to meeting the needs of each learner.”
The Long Beach resident is one of five recipients of the Dr. Celia C. Ayala Early Educator of the Year Award for his work. The award was created by Child360, a nonprofit committed to supporting early learning.
The other four honorees were: Martha Hernandez of Venice, Veronica Murphy of Los Angeles, Martha Tapia of Glendale, and Sheila Twaddell of Pomona. All five teachers received a $2,000 stipend, classroom supplies, and a proclamation from the LA County Board of Supervisors.
“On behalf of Child360, I am proud to award each of these five diverse classroom heroes, who are helping lay the foundation for the future leaders of tomorrow,” said Richard Martinez, Child360 board chairman.
Marano is the lead pre-kindergarten teacher at the Pacific Coast Campus site of the Long Beach City College (LBCC) Child Development Center and Learning Lab. He was nominated for the award by Stacey Smith-Clark, who manages the Child Development Center.
Smith-Clark described Marano as “an exemplary early childhood educator and professional” who “is adored by the children in our program.” She said he is “soft-spoken, funny, and always calm and nurturing” and that he makes sure to have individual conversations with every student every day.
Kristen Beckerdite, who has had two daughters taught by Marano, said, “He is extremely creative and intentional about the learning opportunities he creates in his classroom.”
Marano has lived in Long Beach for most of his life. He did his initial training in childhood development at LBCC, completing his Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education at Pacific Oaks College and his Master’s at Portland State University. Marano returned to LBCC five years ago to coach future educators and work with children. He said he chose a preschool setting because he loves the sense of wonder inherent in this age group.
“Preschoolers explore the world with all of their senses,” Marano said. “I love their energy — it keeps me young.”
Marano described LBCC’s program as constructivist, with play being the highest form of research. He said his students help create the curriculum by sharing their curiosity. He spoke with pride about an outreach program inspired by his youngsters.
Recounting his students’ concern about homelessness and homeless children, Marano said the little ones devised a way to help: hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser.
“They did everything,” he said, “wrote a donation request letter, made invitations, and created event decorations.” He said the experience reminded him “how compassionate and thoughtful our youngest learners can be.”
Marano said he believes that youngsters need access to high quality early learning opportunities. He feels that preschool years are an important part of a strong educational foundation.
“I have found that when children have the time and space to cultivate (self-regulation and social-emotional skills), they blossom and are ready for developmentally-appropriate early learning skills in literacy, math, science, etc.,” he said.
Rachael Stoffel, Marketing and Communication Specialist at Child360, said her organization honors early educators “to drive the conversation forward that all children deserve a quality early foundation.”
To learn more about the early childhood program at the Long Beach City College Child Development Center, go to www.lbcc.edu/child-development-center. For information about Child360, visit https://child360.org.