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Community Highlights: Meet Diana L. Smith of Auntie Di’s Preschool Tutor and ASL Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana L. Smith.

Hi Diana, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My journey began when I moved from LA to live with my grandparents in the Northeast San Fernando Valley to attend middle school; this was after having a not-so-good experience the first day of school in the Los Angeles area. My mom and grandmother decided it was best for me to move from the city to the valley.

That is when I officially became “A Valley Girl!” The pace of living in the San Fernando Valley was a better fit for my personality. Little did I know, my experiences living with my grandparents would lead me to become the educator I am today, as well as an author of four childhood development curriculum books that focus on children with disabilities. My grandmother was a foster parent. I had many foster brothers and sisters, all with different types of disabilities. This may sound strange, but as a child, I really did not notice their disabilities; I knew that my grandmother had to tend to each child differently based on their specific needs. One sister was partially blind, several siblings needed medication, a few were noted as “drug babies” and others possessed learning challenges. My job entailed assisting with homework as my grandmother’s helper.

After graduating from high school, I attended Los Angeles Valley College where I studied Music. It was my first experience witnessing deaf students communicating in American Sign Language (ASL) while walking to class. It was so beautiful! While I did not immediately begin studying ASL, in 1997, I attended a church with a Deaf Ministry. It was there that I started interpreting praise and worship songs, and it was so exciting! In 2000, I officially began studying American Sign Language and attended North Valley Occupational Center, North Hollywood Night School, and College of the Canyons, located in Santa Clarita where I received my Early Childhood Education-Core.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Life is never easy, seldom is it a smooth road for many of us. In 1995, my grandfather passed away; my grandmother left a few years prior. As the oldest of four, the responsibility rested upon my shoulders to take care of the family business. At that time, I was on disability and had no idea how I was going to handle any of this. When my grandmother passed, the house was paid in full. However, hidden from me was the fact my grandfather borrowed money against the home and left a mortgage that went unpaid. As a result, the home went into foreclosure. The day they came to remove me from the property, I observed a man outside looking at the house, holding papers in his hand. He was the new owner.

Upon hearing my story and explaining that the home was ancestral property, things began to move in what I refer to as divine timing. Today, I am residing in the home of my ancestral grandparents, having not paid a dime to return. There is nothing like a little faith that won’t open doors for you.

I realized I needed an income to make the mortgage, and as a result, opened the Smith Family Childcare. The home needed renovations, and after sleeping on beach lounge chairs, working through several buckets of paint and dumping tons of trash on the sidewalk, my work ethic kicked into overdrive. After receiving my childcare license, my home turned childcare officially became incorporated in July 1997.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
After years of blending the daycare services and my passion for teaching young people with learning challenges, Auntie Di’s Preschool-Music Time and Sign with Ms. D. was birthed.

In 1995, not only did I take care of children at my childcare facility, I incorporated formal instruction for them as well. After all, teaching is a natural instinct which I thoroughly enjoyed. In 2005, an educator from Connections for Children approached me to work with them, and after a year of contemplating it, the young lady explained that FIRST 5 LA was searching for qualified childcare providers to open their childcare to offer a new program called the Los Angeles Universal Preschool. There were so many preschool-age children yet insufficient public-school classrooms. After accepting the opportunity in 2006, Auntie Di’s Preschool-Smith Family Childcare officially became a First 5 LA Los Angeles Universal Preschool site.

The next few years were about personal and professional development, honing my craft, structuring lessons, and building a curriculum for the students who would enter my establishment. I began incorporating American Sign Language as part of our everyday lessons through the medium of music. The children learned vocabulary and began reading sight words through the beauty of ASL. As parents returned to me with children entering first through third grades, I understood the need to blend all my skills together to serve this population of kids. Today, the hard work has afforded me the opportunity to create a 4-volume series titled Music Time Sign with Ms. D: A Multimodality Approach to Learning. Each volume offers a rich experience of learning while incorporating the use of posters, fingerspelling practice, matching exercises, engaging puzzles, reading and writing practice, word searches, and most importantly, lesson plans and answer sheets for both teachers as well as parents who work independently with their children.

I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to learn, and I am dedicated to this end, ensuring that no child is excluded from the academic process. Instruction continues with Ms. D., and as such, learning never stops, even when done in a virtual setting. Students are thriving, and this includes students with disabilities.

I am most proud that I have created a tool that not only can be used in my classroom, but teachers can use it successfully as a supplemental text in their own classrooms across America. I am an advocate, and I stand with parents as I support them through their children’s academic journeys and life circumstances. It is my pleasure to do so.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I believe that everything happens during a divine time in our lives. Whatever your belief, it is mine that God has placed me in this position at this exact time of my life and career. That, coupled with a whole lot of faith, drive and determination, allows me to meet the right people at the right time. This includes schools, districts, education advocates, and parents who are searching for hope as their children embark upon their early learning adventures. So, luck? I think not. Purpose? Absolutely!


  • Classroom Management Vol. 1 $38.88
  • Classroom Management Vol. 2 $38.88
  • Classroom Management Vol. 3 $38.88
  • Classroom Management Vol. 4 $38.88
  • Classroom Posters $3.88

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