This month’s highlight focuses on Annie Frazier, initiated in March 2022 with Omicron Alpha Delta at the University of Utah. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Human Development & Social Policy, with anticipated graduation in the summer of 2022. Her thesis is: “Best Practices for Preschoolers Utilizing Technology for Learning.” She is currently the PBS KIDS Utah Education Program Manager, where she provides resources and support through PBS KIDS and PBS Learning Media content, supports educators, parents, and children, and advocates for innovative education and family policies. At a recent virtual initiation, Annie’s passion for supporting children and serving as a mentor to others was remarkable in its intensity and genuine expression. I called her to follow up and learn more about her work.

What do you do? Oversee all the PBS programming for children of Utah, strategize how to best allocate funds, and provide free accessible curriculum to children and families. How precisely does she do that?

Using national PBS resources, she teaches people from ages 2 to 18 about PBS utilizing whatever resources she has available from national PBS or other local resources. For example, the program “Nature Cat” has a grant that gave Annie access to a Nature Cat costume and 2,000 Nature Cat themed books to send out to young children. She must figure out how to make that into an event or program to get those resources in the hands of the children and families.

Annie also creates programs and activities for children in Utah. Available resources include a graphics and production team, a marketing team, photographers, and people who make commercial vignettes.

PBS KIDS Utah has an annual reading marathon. Participant kids from Pre-K to Grade 6 read 20 minutes a day for the month of November. PBS Kids has paired with community partners to offer “Adventure Passes.” Those kids who meet the challenge earn an Adventure Pass which earns them free admission to the natural history museum, art museum, zoo, planetarium, and more. “Last year we had close to 19,000 Utah children participate in the PBS KIDS 29th annual reading marathon in November.

In the spring we do a Writers and Illustrators Contest to encourage creativity and literacy. Children K-6th grade submit original stories with a minimum of five illustrations with this year’s theme being “Anyone can be a hero.” The contest encourages children to look for helpers around them and know that they too can be superheroes. Winning children get prize packs and the winning pieces are framed and go on a traveling art exhibit throughout Utah. “It’s really fun the different things that we do. We’ve created partnerships with refugee centers, ordered books in various languages, and are helping create reading nooks for parents and children to access together. I love my job.”

What’s your favorite part of your job? I used to wish I was super wealthy so I could help people boldly. But in this job, I can do that. I have these free resources, and any time I can make that call to help underserved children is incredible. Recently, I was able to contact some principals during teacher appreciation week and let them know that we had $1,000 for them to use for their teachers and students struggling with literacy. They were just so grateful. Sometimes they’re in their tears. We just distributed 15K books to various Title I schools so that children had books to read at home. In some instances, this book was the first book they owned.

My favorite part of my job is unconditionally helping the children of Utah with no strings attached. When I support parents, educators, and children throughout the state, it is an incredible feeling.

Tell me about why you went back for your master’s degree.  I originally wanted to go to school to get a degree in elementary education. But all they talked about was how to teach math. I didn’t want to be so consumed with how to teach a subject that I forget about the person. So, I went through every class in my school’s course catalog and highlighted everything that sounded interesting, and it fell under family and consumer sciences. I did my undergraduate degree in FCS and graduated in 2000. I found that this degree helped educate me to become a better mother and better human. The things I learned have impacted me in every aspect of my life and not just professionally. Over the years I worked in a lot of childcare centers and programs; managing different early childhood centers and preschools as a director, curriculum director, summer camp director, grant specialist, consultant, and trainer. But I wanted to go back to school for my master’s degree. Going back to school with three kids and COVID hitting has been really difficult. I’m not necessarily finishing strong, but I’m stronger for finishing, and I want my kids to see that. I’m pushing through because in educating my mind and brain I’m able to turn my passion into work that I love: nurturing and caring for children.

What have you learned from your work?

My work with children has taught me about service and selflessness. We’re often underpaid compared to other fields. But when a child has just gotten hurt or is sad and they wrap their arms around me and I’m able to read them a story and let them know that they’re important, it is worth it. Seeing them walk out the door an inch taller than when they arrived in the morning is amazing because my team helped to give them confidence. That, you can’t file on your taxes, but it lives in my heart. I don’t think that’s something that every degree does. We acknowledge how valuable each human is and help create a space of celebration where we can honor each person. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a high five, a hug, a book, or a smile.

Children can accept people in ways that adults have been socialized not to. For example, there were two kids playing. I’m not sure what they were discussing but one kid said “I don’t celebrate Easter, I celebrate Passover.” The other child said, “I don’t celebrate Passover, I celebrate Easter.” They paused, then one said. “Okay, let’s play,” and they did. It doesn’t matter what the topic is: children are more accepting and we have so much to learn from them. The more I teach children, the more I learn about myself.

How did you get the job?

I was running a childcare center and preschool at the University of Utah on campus that we call lab school. For four years I was the director of that preschool. But I wanted to look for something else. After work each night I looked for jobs where I could continue to have an impact on children, teachers, and families. I was able to find this job with PBS Utah and continue to work for the University of Utah. The PBS Utah Education Program Manager job popped up and I applied.

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