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Judy Foreman: Dr. Victoria Mann Simms, Champion of Early Childhood Education, Opens Up about Cause

Think tank aims to strengthen vital programs at community colleges like Santa Barbara City College

Victoria Mann Simms Ph.D. convened a daylong meeting at her Montecito home to share news of the work she and colleagues are doing in the area of early childhood development and education.
Victoria Mann Simms Ph.D. convened a daylong meeting at her Montecito home to share news of the work she and colleagues are doing in the area of early childhood development and education.  (John Rose / Foundation for Santa Barbara City College photo)

By Judy Foreman, Noozhawk Columnist | @noozhawknews |

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Victoria Mann Simms Ph.D. recently hosted a daylong gathering at her Montecito home to discuss early childhood development and education.

Although she and her husband live primarily in Los Angeles, two years ago they built a beautiful contemporary house — designed by Mark Rios — on East Mountain Drive, and have become an active part of the Santa Barbara community.

With its spectacular ocean and mountain views and museum-quality art, the home was the ideal setting for the second annual Simms/Mann Institute for Early Childhood Education Think Tank and Fellowship. Participants recognized and discussed the cutting-edge work in early childhood education being done by the institute, which is headed up by Mann Simms and includes Santa Barbara City College faculty.

A meet and greet was held at the start of the event, which boasted a prominent guest list of educators and community leaders and included delicious food from Seasons Catering & Events. Despite the relaxed atmosphere and the elegance of the surroundings, there was a seriousness to the conversation among many of the guests.

The Simms/Mann Institute was established in 2011 in response to today’s fast-paced lifestyle and is a unique public/private partnership offering professional development opportunities to community college faculty and staff. The institute’s work focuses on children from from infancy to 3 years old and is the first program of its kind to be implemented at the community college level. According to the institute, 70 percent of early childhood educators matriculate from community colleges like SBCC.

Mann Simms, the institute’s founder and president, is passionate and knowledgeable about this work. A practicing psychologist for more than 25 years in Los Angeles, she acquired clinical experience in a variety of settings, ranging from schools and parenting centers to office-based psychotherapy. She is a pioneer in this area of development, and has developed several integrative medicine programs, both nationally and internationally, in an effort to transform health care and medical education.

“Bridging the gap between research and practice is of utmost importance to me,” Mann Simms said. “It has long been my desire to elevate the importance of 0-3 years and how those years impact the health and well being of our children, families and communities for years to come.

“Community colleges are the training ground for our future workforce, and I am excited for the launch of this innovative partnership.”

During the seated lunch under a beautiful canopy, the guests received updates about the latest outcome of the Think Tank and Fellowship program at several community colleges. Representing SBCC were President Lori Gaskin; Betty Pazich, associate dean of SBCC’s educational programs; Vanessa Patterson Bechtel, executive director of the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College; foundation board president Madeleine Jacobson; former board president Neil Kreisel; and board members David Donor and Gail Kvistad.

From the SBCC Board of Trustees were trustees Marty Blum, a former Santa Barbara mayor and elementary school teacher; Marsha Croninger; and Peter Haslund. Also present was philanthropist Anne Smith Towbes.

Fellows themselves were introduced and presented with certificates and acknowledgement for their achievements, before they reported on their individual findings. Among those recognized for their work in the field of early childhood education was Carol Karp, a consultant to schools throughout the Los Angeles area who has been associated with the Simms/Mann Institute’s Educational Initiative since its inception and has served on the think tank planning committee.

Honored educators included Eve Adler, Dr. Debbie Cazares, Kristy Gose, Kimberly Karkos, Margaret Kidwell, Jennifer Montgomery, Judy Osterhage, Wendy Parise, Marni Roosevelt, Ellen Stoddard, Dr. Mark F. Whitney and Katie Worsdale.

After lunch, the guests moved into the living room to see a PowerPoint presentation from the day’s keynote speakers. First to speak was Ruth Feldman Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, with a joint appointment at Yale University. She was followed by Dr. Kyle Pruett from Yale’s Child Study Center, and Wendy Parise, department chairwoman of Early Childhood Education at Santa Monica City College, who talked about technology and the effects it is having, especially on young children born into the digital age.

The aim of the day was to recognize the significant role that early childhood professionals play in supporting the child and the family’s ability to adapt and thrive while leveraging the Simms/Mann Institute’s objectives to gain higher social and economic returns through collaborations with other organizations and public/private partnerships. To achieve these goals, Mann Simms was delighted to open up her home to share news of the work she and her fellow professionals are undertaking.

Click here for more information about the Simms/Mann Institute for Early Childhood Education Think Tank and Fellowship.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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