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International award recognizes leadership in childcare at SFU

November 30, 2015
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Pat Frouws, executive director of SFU Childcare Society, has ambitious plans for engaging the world’s early childcare sector in her vision for lleading excellence in quality care and learning programs for all children, educators and families.

That passion recently won Frouws recognition as a 2016 Exceptional Master Leader by the international magazine, Childcare Exchange. She would like to use this recognition to support her advocacy goal of ensuring that best-early learning and care practices happen both at home and abroad. Frouws is one of only two Canadians on the international roster of 49 exceptional master leaders.

As executive director Frouws oversees 15 separate early childhood programs for 300 children aged 0 to 12 years, and manages 65 staff members.

During her 11 years with the society Frouws has worked closely with SFUCCS educators to raise the society's reputation in the early-childhood education sector and in the broader community, and to acknowledge the invaluable role that the educators bring to the society. Together with SFUCCS educators, she has established a new curriculum based upon the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which encourages children to develop to their fullest potential through exploring and engaging the world around them.

In 2012, Frouws worked closely with SFU Community Trust and SFU’s Faculty of Education to conceive and design the award-winning UniverCity Childcare Centre. She says the design was inspired and guided by several principles from Italy's  Reggio Emilia preschools, such as transparency, use of natural light and dedicated space, a community focus, relationships for learning, bringing the outdoors in, and the use of natural materials and aesthetics. UniverCity Childcare is also one of Canada’s greenest buildings and the world’s most sustainable childcare facility.

Since the opening of UniverCity Childcare, the SFUCC has been inundated with tour requests from around the world.  These tours can happen as frequently as once a week and Frouws plans to use these tours as part of her overall engagement strategy. With assistance from the SFUCCS’ educators, Frouws is now offering professional development workshops as part of the tour. 

“We don't want to just show off,” she says. “We want people who tour our site to bring back what they learn from us into their own unique setting anywhere in the world. It’s an intentional way of leading excellence to benefit all children.”

Frouws has also begun advocating for universal, $10-a-day childcare that over a number of years would ease the burden of childcare costs to young families, and ensure quality early childhood educators who receive adequate pay for their expertise.

“It’s difficult to provide a lot of good childcare without enough public funding,” she says.

Frouws has plans to work with faculty women to have SFU publicly endorse the $10/day childcare plan. SFU would join many communities and business associations across the country that have already publicly endorsed the plan.

She has pursued excellence in spite funding issues by creating collaborations with SFU and other universities to offer her staff exceptional professional development in exchange for giving researchers “on-the-floor” research opportunities in the childcare centres.

In 2012, Frouws received a national Prime Minister's Award for excellence in early childhood education.