Teacher Awarded for Child Development Skills

Arpee Markarian

For the past 18 years, Debbie Frohmuth has walked into her classroom at the Child Development Center on campus and into the lives of young children.

But on April 15, this mother and senior master teacher walked on stage, in front of a crowd of about 300 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and accepted the Preschool Teacher of the Year Award.

“I am very proud and very excited,” Frohmuth said in a soft-spoken voice. “It’s great.

Winning this award acknowledges our field and supports high-quality childcare. I think that recognizing the field is going to make a difference for the future of the children.”

This first-ever ceremony honoring early childhood educators took place during The Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration that focuses on early childhood programs and raises awareness of the needs of children and their families.

Frohmuth and five other L.A. County preschool teachers were recognized by The Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), the event sponsor.

“The teachers we recognized today have one thing in common,” said Gary Magniofico, LAUP Chief Executive Officer. “They share a deep-seated commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that young children are receiving a quality preschool education that will help them succeed in school and in life. They are a shining example of what the teaching profession is all about.”

This nonprofit organization was established in 2004 to create and fund the classrooms of 4-year-olds in preschools across L.A.
County. With $600 million funding through 2009 from First 5 LA, the commission instituted by Prop. 10, they contribute to programs in a variety of settings including public, private, and charter centers.

A panel that included the L.A. County Board of Supervisors evaluated nominees on such areas as creative instructional strategies, fostering a classroom climate characterized by enthusiasm for teaching and learning, and engaging others in supporting pupils’ learning and development, such as parents and teaching assistants.

Frohmuth was among 100 L.A. County early education teachers nominated for the award by someone at their preschool. They were all picked for their strong commitment to a quality preschool education, and their dedication to making a positive contribution to the children they serve.

Jeannette Tashiro, Director of GCC’s Child Development Center, and a parent, selected Frohmuth out of 10 teachers working at the center.

“We are quite honored to have not only the child development center,” Tashiro said, “but also the acknowledgment of Debbie’s hard work and dedication for so many years to the college and to the field.I think she stands out in her own way with her commitments to the college.”

Frohmuth’s colleagues thought she deserved to be elected, said Tashiro.

Among family and friends sharing Frohmuth’s special day was her student Mira Delfino, a 5-year-old blond girl who held a sign that read “I love Debbie,” with a heart drawn in the middle. She “loves being around Debbie” and attended the event with her parents, who wanted to give her the opportunity to be there with Frohmuth, said Tashiro.

Frohmuth has been working with children for 31 years. After she graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1977 with her bachelor’s in child development, she worked at VOA Maud Booth Family Center in North Hollywood and Montrose Christian Montessori before moving to the Child Development Center on campus in September 1990, when it first opened.

Along with co-teacher Jacque Huggins, she now instructs 16 students in the LAUP Pre-Kindergarden class, which she has taught for four years.

But Frohmuth involves her students in more than just playing games, reading and drawing pictures.

She has developed her own curriculum unit on photography, a passion she has incorporated into her classroom that she says helps students build their vocabulary and promotes literacy through first-hand experiences.

She has taught children how to take pictures of one another for assignments through basic demonstrations on the parts of cameras, how to hold them, frame a picture, click the shutter, and the function of light. They explored film, negatives, slides, and black and white photographs on their field trips to a photography studio and to the darkroom lab on campus.

Even the playroom transforms into a portrait studio and darkroom, complete with tripod, backdrop, dress-up clothes, trays, tongs, and supplies.

At the end of the lesson, the poster boards that the children design, with pictures are displayed for parents, children, college students, and staff to enjoy.

This class drew the attention of the Glendale News Press, which wrote an article about it in 2003.

Frohmuth also mentors college students at the center, which serves as a laboratory for those completing their required hours for the Child Development major. Volunteers from Crescenta Valley High School, Pacific Oaks College, UCLA, and other campuses also spend time in her class.

It is for all of these achievements, and more, that Frohmuth received her award.
After she and the other five award winners graced the stage, short video clips were shown of each of them in their preschools, talking about the value of working with children every day.

“I dedicated my career to preschool because of the impact it has on children’s lives and their families,” Frohmuth said in her video clip.

“I want to make sure that I meet the needs of every individual child. There is a big range in the classroom in ages as well as developmental stages, and I think that knowing my children and what they need and respecting them is the most important thing that I can do.”