Acclaimed Author and Educator of Homeless Children Inspires SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Staff during Annual Opening Session
“We are in the best business in the whole world. We are in the kid business,” said award-winning author and educator Stacey Bess to approximately 200 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Head Start/Early Head Start staff members on Thursday, Sept. 6. Bess was part of Head Start/Early Head Start’s opening session in the Multipurpose Room Theater at the East St. Louis Higher Education Campus.
The theme for the daylong session, which included guest speakers during the morning and professional development workshops in the afternoon, was “It Takes a Healthy Village to Raise a Healthy Child,” according to Lynnie Bailey, SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start program director.
“She knows about overcoming adversity,” Bailey said by way of introduction. “Drawing on her own fascinating and inspirational personal story about teaching homeless children in a small shed known as The School With No Name, she offers and inspires educators wanting to make a difference in the lives of children regardless of the zip code in which they were born.”
Bess is known for the Hallmark movie based on her life, “Beyond the Blackboard,” which depicts Bess in her first teaching job that brought her to a school housed inside of a homeless shelter where she acknowledges she learned some of her greatest lessons. She also wrote the book, Nobody Don’t Love Nobody: Lessons on Love from the School With No Name about her experiences.
In part, Bess recalled her most poignant experience with the homeless student named Zachary, who hated women, because his mother abandoned him. Zachary was hard to win over, but eventually Bess did.
“I told Zachary that I would stay in this awful place to work, if he would stay and do his best,” she said. Bess eventually attended Zachary’s high school graduation and hopes to visit him at his home in Alaska one day soon.
“I relate to real life stories like Stacey’s,” said Julie Lechowicz, program services specialist for the home based program option “Her determination and drive to help others is what life is all about. As home visitors, we see poverty and families in crisis every day. If we could all put ourselves in others people’s shoes, we might be more willing to help others, understand what backgrounds people come from and be less judgmental.”
“Stacey Bess’s presentation gave me that extra push to hold on to the joy that I have of performing my duties and receiving the love and appreciation from the wonderful families I serve,” said Tonica Wright, family engagement associate at SIUE Lovejoy Head Start Center.
Also on the program were Stephen Hupp, PhD, social-emotional consultant for the SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program and professor in SIUE’s Department of Psychology, and Lt. Dustin Brueggemann, of the SIUE Police Department.
Hupp talked to the early childhood educators about the importance of building social-emotional skills among preschoolers. He gave the educators many tools in accomplishing the task, namely how to practice universal wellness promotion, universal social-emotional support, universal parent support, and how to consult and intervene.
Brueggemann gave sobering statistics and information regarding intruders whose intent is to kill and cause the most harm to people, wherever they gather. If faced with such a deadly situation, Brueggemann stressed the importance of the following: educate, evade, escape and engage.
Classes for SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start preschoolers start Tuesday, Sept. 11.
The SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program serves more than 1,500 families and children from birth to age five, including children with special needs, throughout St. Clair County. The program includes 14 early childhood centers, seven managed directly and seven collaborations. Services include a rigorous school readiness comprehensive program that includes educational programs for family members, and health and dental screenings.
Photos: Award-winning author and educator Stacey Bess was the guest speaker at the SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Annual Opening Session.
SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program Director Lynnie Bailey talks about Stacey Bess’s book, Nobody Don’t Love Nobody: Lessons on Love from the School With No Name.