Daisy Garcia-Montoya 
Education Reporter

Community members, awardees, and staff of the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC), gathered on Friday, March 8, at Parlor in the Crossroads, to celebrate the annual Latinx Educator Awards. 

The 2024 Latinx Educator Awards, hosted by the Latinx Education Collaborative, a non-profit organization focused on advancing educational equity and Latinx youth, honored six recipients which included current and future educators.

In order to be a candidate for the award, individuals are nominated by a peer or member of the community after showcasing one or more LEC core values: Community, Authenticity, Personal Growth, Impact, and Integrity as well as their commitment to advancing educational opportunities for the Latinx community. This year, there were 115 nominations submitted before the final six were selected.

“We are delighted to honor these incredible educators for their extraordinary contributions to the lives of students and their unwavering commitment to educational equity,” said Edgar Palacios, Founder and CEO of the LEC. “The Latinx Educator Awards recipients embody the spirit of excellence and serve as inspiring role models for educators across the country.”

Out of the six recipients, two awardees were from outside the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area. The ceremony began with Palacios informing the audience that one of the LEC board members, Stephen Linkous, is the new superintendent for Liberal Kansas Public Schools starting June 1st. 

“One of the things we run into is we see lots of schools full of kids that are Latino from different backgrounds, being served by teachers and administrators who don’t look like them or have a similar culture. Now reality is that doesn’t mean you can’t educate somebody,” Linkous said. “But there’s a lot of research that also says it’s very helpful and that it does support the education of the students so programs like this help improve those outcomes and improve those numbers.” 

As the ceremony continued, honorees received their award after hearing a brief speech reflecting on why they were nominated. Among the themes, representation and being a resource for students were constantly mentioned. 

Mariela Arzabe, who won Support Staff of the Year, flew from Atlanta, Georgia for the award and is one of the first LEC Latinx Educator Award winners outside of the local region. During her speech, Arzabe said that through her role, she is aware of the many challenges Latino families and students face and wants to be part of that change. “I’m very thankful to my students, especially my Latino students, because they have motivated and inspired me, and because we do not have a bilingual counselor in our school, even though 40% of our kids are Latino, I am going back to school to be a school counselor,” Arazabe announced. 

Although most awardees are currently in the education field already, the awards also honored those who are making their way into the field and who have the ambition of becoming an educator. 

Dr. Marta Silva, an educator at Olathe North High School closed the ceremony by talking about the importance of these events that showcases and celebrates those in the community. 

“This is a celebration from the community, with the community, for the community. A celebration from the heart. This is an invitation for all of us to keep on elevating each other’s work to keep on showing up for each other,” Silva said. “We are doing the right thing because it matters and that’s what LEC is doing. We are creating a larger, tighter community and it takes work. This is just the beginning.”

The award ceremony was followed by an hour of socializing and networking as attendees and awardees celebrated.

The 2024 Latinx Educator Award Recipients are:

Edwin Pérez, Baltimore, MD Educator of the Year

Samanta Landa, Olathe, KS, Counselor of the Year

Julia Avila, Kansas City, MO, Future Educator of the Year

Jacqueline Guillen, Kansas City, MO, Aspiring Educator of the Year

Dr. Ileana Farney, Kansas City, KS, Administrator of the Year

Mariela Arzabe, Atlanta, GA, Support Staff of the Year