Phenomenal Women

Published on December 11th, 2011 | by thevyne


Woman to Watch: Deborah Tillman

Information courtesy of The Washingtonpost, Lifetime TV, Loop 21 and Happy Home Child Learning Center

Hometown: New Jersey native currently living in the Washington/Virginia area

Occupation: Founder of Happy Home Child Learning Center, Author and star of Lifetime TV’s “America’s Supernanny”

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Upsala College and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from The George Washington University. She also studied at Oxford University.

Family Life: Deborah is married and has one son, Zeplyn who is currently in college

Career Path: Deborah started her career as an accountant. It was after experiencing seven horrific childcare providers for her infant son back in 1992 that she decided to leave her accounting job in favor of taking care of him herself.

Entrepreneurial Success: Deborah started a home-based school, Happy Home Child Learning Center, where she could provide quality daycare and instruction to her son Zeplyn and several other children. Her center was an immediate hit among other families in the community. So much so that Deborah was soon able to expand her business into a 5,600 square foot space with a staff of six serving 45 children. Shortly thereafter, her center amassed a six-month waiting list and in 1998, she opened a second site to accommodate more than 100 students and 16 full-time staff. Today, Deborah operates three centers in Virginia.

Hollywood Hit: It was Deborah’s extensive childcare background that caught the attention of Shed Media, the Los Angeles production company behind the Lifetime series. After holding an open casting call that garnered hundreds of applicants, the company contacted Tillman to find out whether she would be interested. Following a series of interviews, screen tests and a trip to California to meet with executives, she was hired as “America’s Supernanny.” Here’s what Deborah had to say about starring in the series since the cancellation of the U.K. version on ABC:

“I don’t want to mimic anybody,” said Tillman, who is making her TV debut. “This is me being very real, very transparent. It’s not a role. I just go in and do what I would normally do, and put techniques in place to help families”….”They know it’s going to take hard work. I’m not Mary Poppins,” Tillman says. “I’m not going to go in and wave a magic wand. There’s hard work that needs to be done in order to change behavior. They have to be willing to do that, or why call me?”

Positive Parenting: In an interview with Loop 21, Deborah was asked about her thoughts on spanking in the black community and the notion that “Time outs are for white kids,” or the ever popular “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”  Here’s her response:

One thing I hear is, ‘Well, I was spanked and I turned out alright,’ as if there’s a direct correlation between the two. It’s a generational curse and you have got to break the cycle. Your grandmother did it because she may not have had any other tools. And really, all it did was make us fear the belt. But we can’t just do what our grandparents did, not when we have so many other options and techniques available to us. Proverbs 13:24 (the verse where “spare the rod” originates) does not mean to beat our kids. The rod was used to direct the sheep, to steer the sheep in the right direction. They weren’t beating the sheep!”

Accomplished Author: Deborah is the author of the book “Stepping Out on Faith”, a guide to opening a quality childcare center. She also presents workshops on child care and her techniques throughout the country.

Catch Deborah on Lifetime’s “America’s Supernanny” every Tuesday at 9pm EST/ 8pm CST. See full episodes here.


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