2016 Brunch

SAzAEYC members including early childhood educators, students and advocates came together Saturday morning, April 16, to share a meal, celebrate our successes, and honor a few of our especially deserving professionals.


Norma Maisonet, Debra Figueroa, Carol Baker, and Dr. Linda Arzoumanian

Nina Brannen Teaching Young Children Award


Debra Figueroa, teacher, Children’s Achievement Center, accepted this award after an introduction by Jeremy Shipley, a parent in her classroom. He has personally witnessed her way with children, describing it as “literally true love in a bond.” Jeremy went on to say, “She’s a life-long learner.”

A person who currently or previously has made significant contributions to the education of young children in the following areas:

  • Innovative teaching
  • Children’s rights
  • Childcare issues
  • Program development and/or program implementation

Cecilia Avalos Education Award


Norma Maisonet, Bilingual Parent Educator, Easter Seals Blake Foundation, in her acceptance speech thanked her own daughter. Mother and daughter attend college concurrently. Norma claims her daughter helps keep her on track in her studies, a neat reversal of the role Norma plays as a Parent Educator. Cary Hahn, Norma’s colleague, said that Norma practices “unconditional positive regard… She loves these parents.”

A person who currently or previously has contributed significantly to the education of parents through any (but not limited to) of the following areas:

  • Education programs for teens relating to children and/or counseling
  • Preparing bilingual materials for parents organizing and/or teaching parenting classes
  • Teenage Parenting Programs

Frances Miller Community Action on Behalf of Young Children Award


Carol  Baker, RN, BSN, CCHS, Pima County Health Department, spoke passionately about her primary mission in the early childhood community: “It is the responsibility of everyone to promote safe sleep practices (for infants).”

A person currently or previously active in community/state/national child advocacy through any of the following:

  • Legislation
  • Volunteer hours
  • A voice for children
  • Agency impact
  • Safety issues
  • Health issues
  • Deep respect for individual children
  • Contribution to gifted children or children with special needs
  • Teaching style that promotes cultural awareness or cultural understanding

Mary Frobisher Teacher Education Award


Julie Friberg, Early Literacy Coach, Make Way for Books, described her contributions to the field perfectly: “I have the pleasure of watching people… be sure that young children have the opportunity for a joyful, meaningful, nurturing, cognitively engaging interaction—especially around books—and I feel very blessed.”

A person who currently or previously has contributed significantly in the education of those who teach young children through the following areas:

  • College instructor
  • Workshop instructor
  • Administrator
  • Author research
  • Curriculum designer
  • Bilingual education

SAZAEYC Board Award


Dr. Linda Arzoumanian, Pima County School Superintendent, accepted the award from Board President Jenny Douglas. Dr. A delivered an inspiring address based on the three keywords choices, chances, and change. She said, “You need to stand up for what you believe in even if it’s unpopular.”

Download Dr. A’s notes here.


Kristine Perez, Children’s Achievement Center

Lela Messick, Easter Seals Blake Foundation Centers

Small grants, typically between $50 to $300, are awarded for projects in the classroom (e.g. educational supplies, outdoor play equipment, and so on), and cannot be awarded in consecutive years. Download the SAzAEYC Mini-Grants application 2016, and email with the subject line SAzAEYC Mini-Grant Application to Renee Hartje at rhartje@blake.easterseals.com.



Josie Freeman, Brenda’s mother, announced that they have endowed the Brenda Loomis Hello My Friend Memorial Scholarship, to much applause and delight. When introducing Jennifer Chee, this year’s recipient, Josie said, “She has a big dream and i hope it comes true.” Jennifer inspired us through a visually stunning presentation with the narration, “I learned to walk in beauty.”

The “Hello My Friend” memorial scholarship fund was established in memory of a valued member of the early childhood education community, Brenda Loomis. Upon her death in 2012 at the age of 42, the scholarship was established to provide new and renewed scholarships to help college students with limited financial resources achieve high academic goals and develop their scholarship capacity in southern Arizona. The scholarship will be managed by the Southern Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (SAzAEYC), a nonprofit organization to which Brenda was highly dedicated. This scholarship honors Brenda’s life as an advocate of young children, and will provide financial assistance to a member or members of SAzAEYC in continuing their education towards an AA, BA or MA degree.

The criteria of the scholarship include academic excellence, exemplary citizenship, commitment to the Early Care and Education profession, and financial need. Students must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be living in Arizona, and must be pursuing their first undergraduate certificate or degree to be eligible.