By Raiza Giorgi

Vicky Dudek didn’t find a niche in education until after college, when she met and married her husband Joe. Because of his passion for teaching kids, Dudek decided to see what education was all about, and she ended up back in school to get her teaching credentials.

“He is still so passionate about education and the importance of how this shapes these kids’ lives. When I first became a teacher in my late 20s, I saw how hard this job was, but how rewarding it was as well,” she said.

Dudek was recently named the new superintendent-principal for Los Olivos Elementary, and even before the school year started she talked about how much she loves the area and the campus.

“I’ve met a lot of the staff and teachers, and they are all so great. I cannot wait for the kids to show up and get the school year started,” Dudek said.

She said she wants to start every day by greeting students and connecting with their parents. She’s lived in the Santa Ynez Valley for just a few months, moving from her home in Corona. Her husband is still working at a school in Moreno Valley, where he has spent more than two decades building up a music education program.

“I think he’s going to end up here most of the time because it is so beautiful here,” she said with a laugh.

Dudek received her master’s degree in educational technology from National University and completed her Ed.D. at USC. Before coming to Los Olivos she was a principal in the Moreno Valley Unified School District and was also a professor at Concordia University in Irvine, where she taught teachers.

“Coming from a large school district I have ideas, and wanting to give the students at Los Olivos all the opportunities afforded those at larger schools. I want to make sure the teaching staff has access to professional development and make Los Olivos even better than it already is,” she said.

Dudek plans to create an early learning academy where teachers are collaborating to give students chances to advance in their studies, or more attention to those who need it most.

“Not every kid is the same. Some develop quickly while others need more room to grow. We want to ensure the kids by third grade are all meeting the necessary levels for a successful educational career,” Dudek said.

She also looks forward to meeting people at Back to School night on Thursday, Aug. 22.

She is already transitioning into a country lifestyle by taking horseback riding lessons at Nojoqui Horse Ranch, and she hopes to get her horse into shape to do cutting and reining.

“I have fallen in love with this community and look forward to being a part of it,” she said.