Vicki Justis

Child Development Center

The Educator Spotlight recognizes those who contribute to the education of local students. Educators were chosen by consulting with site PTA, student government organizations, and staff. Educators were chosen for their reputations with students, staff, parents and the community.

This year, veteran educator, Vicki Justis, will retire after 47 years in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s Child Development Center’s childcare programs. Described by her colleagues as a “real stalwart,” Justis has taught the children and even grandchildren of some of her first students. She credits her success and inspiration to her mentor, Docia Zavitkovsky, who founded SMMUSD’s childcare program in 1943 when childcare programs didn’t really exist due to stay at home parenting. 

Justis Speaks

Originally, I started pursuing a career in secondary education but took a class in Early Childhood Education and fell in love with preschool through, then, 6th-grade children.

When I was in school learning was not easy for me. I was fortunate to have had some patient and caring teachers who took the time to help me overcome the frustration and be successful. Being a teacher challenges me to keep learning and growing so I can create a variety of programs and activities that will advance the learning of my students.

In my current assignment, I have the opportunity to work with children from transitional kindergarten to 3rd grade. It is exciting to watch them change from the sometimes slightly apprehensive five-year-old, entering their new classroom in a new school, to the confident third graders ready to take on all new adventures.

My inspiration was Docia Zavitkovsky who founded the childcare programs in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District 75 years ago. She taught me to look at and create programs that provided for the whole child, their social, emotional, physical and educational growth and development. Docia would always remind us to start at the point where the child was confident and successful and help them to continue to grow from there. She would say, “Always know that a child can accomplish great things if given the chance.”

She also taught us that play is an essential part of a child’s growth and development. It is through play that children begin to learn and develop the skills that they need and will use as adults and future parents.

Having children show the world that they can do, what many thought was impossible, watching the light bulbs go on when they finally understand a concept for the first time, and seeing their sense of humor grow and change makes the job worthwhile. To have a child come back to you years later and tell you that they remember the activities you did with them and how excited they were and then introduce you to their children, and in my case their grandchildren, makes you feel appreciated.

My long-term goals for the children I work with are to have them be confident, respectful, contributing members of the community. I want them to always know that they are important and what they have to say is important. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything they want to do with hard work and commitment.

It had been a long and rewarding career and has created many great memories.