Age of Learning Celebrates 50 Years of Head Start

head start speech Age of Learning and Head Start share a commitment to helping every child learn, regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. That’s why we have been a consistent supporter of Head Start, offering free access to our complete, award-winning ABCmouse.com curriculum for all Head Start programs, and serving thousands of Head Start classrooms to date.

Age of Learning was recently a proud sponsor at the 2015 National Head Start Association conference in Washington, D.C., which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Head Start program. Dr. Rebecca Palacios, Senior Curriculum Advisor at Age of Learning, was invited to address the more than 5,000 people attending the conference. Speaking prior to Cornell Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, and “father of Head Start” Edward Zigler, Dr. Palacios delivered personal and inspirational words that resonated with the large audience of Head Start Directors, teachers, and other supporters.

To share her story with a broader audience, we’re posting her conference address here:

I am so honored and pleased to be here with you today. For me, it is an important milestone and the next step in a teaching adventure that I would like to share with you.

I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I still live. For those who haven’t been there, Corpus Christi is a beautiful city by the Corpus Christi Bay. My family has been there for five generations.

Fifty years ago this spring, our local school district was one of thousands across the country preparing to open Head Start classrooms for the first time.

I was 10 years old and looking forward to finishing fifth grade. My hair was a little longer then. And I was precocious.

When I was three, I had announced that I wanted to become a teacher. That big school down the street where my sister attended was always like a magnet for me. My abuelita and I would walk down there and pick my sister up from school, and I could only stare with awe at all the wonderful, exciting things that I could see at my eye level.

So you can only imagine how excited I was when, about seven years after that, my mother told me about the need for volunteers to work with the young children at my own elementary school. I wanted to learn all about the ways that the teachers would work with the children and the activities that they would prepare for them.

I found myself doing the “Hokey Pokey,” matching pieces of lost puzzles, helping open milk cartons, and asking questions of the students after I had read to them.

My teaching adventure began that summer. And starting with that experience, I developed a deep appreciation and respect for Head Start—for every child that Head Start has served, and there are so many success stories. Not only the successes of the children, but also the success stories for teachers, families, the country, and, yes, volunteers.

My love for teaching and learning has increased since that time. I tried to put everything I learned into an early childhood lesson, and when the children would simultaneously burst into applause at the end of the lesson, well, to tell you the truth, it kept me going back every day to teach.

I am grateful that I have been able to lead children to find their gifts, to use teaching and learning experiences to carry through their lifetimes. That, for me, was the greatest reward. My teaching career was an opportunity to meet my lifetime goal.

But another opportunity was afforded to me—one that I never expected. Six years ago, a friend and colleague from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards introduced me to Age of Learning, the company building what would become ABCmouse.com.

I learned about their mission—to blend education best practices, innovative technology, and insightful creativity to bring learning to life for children everywhere. They were developing the most comprehensive online curriculum ever created for early learners, using the power of the Internet to make high-quality education resources available at low cost to every child.

I’m an idealist. And in ABCmouse.com I saw an ideal. I saw the promise of what America’s best early childhood education program could be. A program that could help prepare the youngest learners for success early on, and also throughout their lives. Here was a way to teach and reach children, not just in my school community, but around the world.

I joined Age of Learning as a member of the Curriculum Board and a Senior Advisor, and over the last six years, I’ve seen the company’s promise become reality. ABCmouse.com is now the leading and most comprehensive online early learning resource available.

A few quick points I’d like to share:

  • First, ABCmouse.com is completely free for Head Start programs. We make it free—with no strings attached—as part of our commitment to helping every child learn, regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. Any Head Start teacher or administrator can create a free account at www.ABCmouse.com/HeadStart.
  • Second, ABCmouse.com’s interactive learning approach is not only for young children; it is also a connection between the Head Start teacher and the family. All 5,000-plus activities on our website are available for teachers to share with parents individually to meet students’ specific educational needs. There is even a Spanish tool that will help Spanish-speaking parents understand the topics their children are learning.
  • Finally, since last year’s National Head Start Association conference, a number of research studies on ABCmouse.com have been completed. These studies—some of which are summarized on our website at www.ageoflearning.com—demonstrate that using ABCmouse.com accelerates children’s learning of basic literacy and numeracy, improving kindergarten readiness and building a strong foundation for academic success.

My teaching adventure started 50 years ago in a Head Start classroom, and it continues to this day.

I hope ABCmouse.com can help you in your teaching adventure and that, 50 years from now, your students will share with YOU and others their own adventures.