Learning Grove – Lead Teacher & PT Social Media Manager
4C for Children – Consultant
Southwest Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children – Membership Secretary
Public Allies Cincinnati – Advisory Board
Bella Frueh is a hustler in the world of early education. Her involvement in the community and passion for her work is inspiring. Bella stays busy as the Lead Teacher and PT Social Media Manager at the Learning Grove, Consultant for 4C for Children, Membership Secretary for SWOAEYC, Member of the Advisory Board for Public Allies Cincinnati and Member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC’s) Young Professionals Advisory Council.
In her many roles, she offers a holistic approach that allows her to engage with the community in unique and personable ways. Her openness to cross-sector resources offers a fresh perspective to early education.
As a continuous learner, she has become a leader and visionary. Keep reading to see how she approaches her work with thought and compassion:
When did you decide to become involved in education?
Early childhood education sort of found me, I would say, almost a decade ago. After years of working for a local residential camp each summer, I found a part-time position at a local childcare center while attending school full-time during the academic year. Though I initially begged my then-director to put me in a pre-school room, she took one look at me and said, “I bet you’re a baby person.” I never looked back! I now work full-time teaching and caring in a toddler classroom, and fulfill a variety of other roles in the community as well.
Why did you choose this field?
Simply put, to affect change for future generations. The disparities and inequities that plague our communities can be alleviated through equitable access to high-quality early childhood education, and empowering teachers to incorporate social justice principles in their classrooms. I challenge myself to take on more leadership roles in our community so I can more accurately advocate for the amazing teachers that I’ve met in this field. Our community and our society would not be able to enjoy the benefits of an educated populace without the tireless and passionate teachers that comprise its workforce. They are the backbone of our society, and I hope to use my experience working as a teacher to be a better advocate for them now.
What do you think the challenges are around literacy?
Sometimes the domains of development become so separated that people don’t see how connected they really are. I think this is a challenge that we as educators face every day, because of the occasionally disjointed nature of all the different standards we have to adhere to in our work. Fortunately, there are also an increasing number of cross-sector resources in our world, and I am particularly passionate about connecting teachers and families with these kinds of support to begin to bridge the divides between literacy and other domains.
How does your work address those challenges?
First off – I talk to my toddlers. I narrate everything I’m doing in my classroom, and when they have questions, I answer them respectfully and honestly. Currently I field a lot of “Why” questions from my two-year-olds’… which I can’t always answer! That leads us into the wonderful world of researching with books that we have, or running simple experiments to figure it out. Talk about literacy connecting with science! It takes a truly holistic approach to fully realize that literacy can overlap with social-emotional development through conversations around feelings, or that you can learn new vocabulary through innovative science activities, or practice tracing letters when they’re playing in sand. I incorporate all these kinds of activities, while still following my toddlers’ lead on how they’d like to learn about their letters or new words, or what topics of books they want to read.
In my ‘extracurricular’ work, as I call it, I strive to partner with community agents to join us at our annual conference and connect with hundreds of regional educators; share evidence-based resources via social media with our community families and stakeholders; and most recently I am learning to incorporate more equity-focused principles into everything I do.
What do you think is most needed to help improve literacy skills?
We as educators, families, and leader in our communities need to overtly recognizing that literacy is expressed in many ways, while expanding our appreciation for individuals’ diverse literary skills and applications. It is vital that we empower and support individuals to advance on their own path to literacy, in ways that make sense for them. In high-quality early childhood classrooms in Ohio, we strive to individualize learning as much as possible. Though it would take a highly coordinated and systems-level effort, individualized literacy and language education needs to be expanded among elementary and high school systems in each state to more equitably meet children and young people’s literacy needs.
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