The honors just keep pouring in for Hays USD 489's Early Childhood Connections. At a time when both state and federal lawmakers likely need reminders of how important Head Start and Early Head Start are in communities, it is particularly gratifying to boast of the award-winning educators involved.
Last fall, Early Childhood Connections Director Donna Hudson-Hamilton was named National Head Start Administrator of the Year for 2013. This year, ECC Head Start teacher Becky Greer has been named the 2014 National Head Start Teacher of the Year.
Greer, who is stationed at Lincoln Elementary School, was "totally shocked" at last week's announcement. She was quick to point out that "other teachers and other Head Start staff deserved the credit as well."
A school district news release said Greer received the award because she best exemplified the qualities needed to provide exceptional early education to Head Start children.
She believes the award committee must have been swayed by her story, which she related in the application paperwork. At the tender age of 7, Greer's father passed away. Her mother, an educator herself, personified strength and accomplishment by working and raising young Becky and her siblings.
"She was a very good example," Greer said.
Greer also enjoyed the support of her small Oklahoma town.
"I grew up in a time when a lot of good people in the community helped raise kids," she said. "There was no Head Start in the 1960s. If there had been, I would have been in it."
As it turned out, she did fine without it. But she also recognized there were plenty of young kids in need of extra attention.
Inspired to follow her mother's footsteps, Greer began her education career in Wichita at a private preschool for children with disabilities. She armed herself with certifications in early childhood, grades K-9, and early childhood special education. She has been a Head Start teacher in Hays since the early 1990s, first at then Felten Middle School and now at Lincoln.
"I believe this was my calling," Greer said.
The calling is noble. Head Start programs target at-risk children prior to kindergarten to get them school-ready and enhance their cognitive, social and emotional development. Greer said the program also is health-based with attention paid to nutrition, immunizations and family engagement in the home. The Early Childhood Connections programs also work with parents.
"It's a comprehensive program," she said. "We look at things differently."
USD 489 is better off because of such programs. And ECC is better off because of teachers such as Becky Greer.
Director Hudson-Hamilton said: "(Greer) is so deserving. She is a true mentor to so many others."
We salute Becky Greer and the entire Early Childhood Connections staff for their positive contributions.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry