Jo Ann Williams, Child Development, Inc.: Mrs. Jo Ann Williams has exemplified the Head Start promise for 45 years. She has a vision for ensuring that CDI provides high quality services to the children and families served through Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant/Seasonal Head Start, and Arkansas Better Chance. She is a strong leader and advocate for Head Start at the local, state, and national level. Mrs. Williams has served in leadership roles for the Arkansas Head Start Association, Region VI Head Start Association, and National Head Start Association. She is a former President of both the Arkansas Head Start Association and the Region VI Head Start Association and most recently served as a Director on the National Head Start Association Board.
Outstanding Arkansas Head Start Staff Award
Phyllis Curnett, Mississippi County Arkansas EOC: Mrs. Phyllis Curnett has dedicated over 20 years to the Head Start children, families, communities and staff. She is a born leader and is a friend to all that are exposed to the center. Her spirit is the epitome of the tremendous amount of love and concern that she has for those around her. She loves her job and is devoted to providing a safe and enriched environment to the children, their families, and the staff.
Ruby Killian, Black River Area Development Corporation: Undoubtedly one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable Head Start Staff members, Mrs. Ruby Killian began her initial employment with this program back in the mid 80’s, which makes 27 years of excellent service. She is unequivocally devoted to her job while maintaining a lighthearted attitude that makes everyone around her, love her. She represents the heart of this program. Hundreds of Head Start families have accomplished thousands of goals with her support and encouragement. She is very empathetic with the families she serves and understands many of the life struggles that Head Start families face, and they feel this understanding. She is open, honest, and trustworthy in all her relationships and is always available to a friend in need. She approaches each day with a sense of humor knowing that a little laughter makes life better.
Jennifer Poe, Newton County Special Services EHS: The true model of the Early Childhood Professional, Mrs. Jennifer Poe encourages staff on a daily basis to “keep their dream alive.” She has striven for continuous improvement, both professionally and personally for the past 11 years that she has been with the Early Head Start program. The passion that she has for her job is evident in all that she does. She accepts challenges with an open heart and is always there with a helping hand, and is truly an inspiration to the children, families, and staff. She gives her best each and every day that she walks in the door and often provides a refreshing laugh in times of need.
Melinda Hillian, EOA of Washington County, Inc. Head Start /Early Head Start: Ms. Melinda Hillian has been associated with Head Start for the past 8 years. The crown jewel for her center, she is someone who understands and lives by the Head Start mission. She exemplifies dedication, commitment, creativity, and initiative in her teaching. She shows genuine compassion and concern for her children and their families. Her classroom is as bright and welcoming as she is. Her lesson plans are not rigid, but instead are as dynamic and pliable as her students are. She is truly a teacher who epitomizes education and literacy and strives to instill that in her students to help them to be the best that they can be and garner the skills that will help them succeed in school and in life.
Melissia Nelson, Cleveland County School District/Cleveland County Head Start: A professional of the highest caliber, Mrs. Melissia Nelson has been with Head Start for 17 years. The amount of devotion and affection she displays with the children is exceptional and exceeds all expectations. She works hard to ensure that her children are challenged and encouraged at all times. She has a gift for promoting individuality in her students, and encourages them to reach their full potential. Her enthusiasm is infectious. When you walk into her class, you want to stay. She makes learning fun, relevant, and spontaneous. At the end of each day, she knows that what she does really matters.
Susan Sanford, Community Action Program for Central Arkansas-Mrs. Susan Sanford has been with Head Start for 4 years and has a total of 14 years of teaching experience. With a smile and an enthusiastic demeanor, she makes each child feel special, safe, and valuable. She walks the walk, not just talks the talk. She is diligent in working with the Hispanic children and families that are part of the program and adapts her lessons to make sure that their traditions and cultures are included. They are even given the opportunity to share those things with the other children in class. Always upbeat, and challenging the children to reach for their full potential, she is a teacher who teaches from the heart, as well as the curriculum.
Carloyn Teel, Black River Area Development Corporation: Just like the Energizer Bunny, Mrs. Carolyn Teel is still going strong after 24 years. She has the chance to retire this year, but believes in the program, and is going to stay a bit longer. She considers her job so much more than work and is willing to go the extra mile, making it a point to interact with each child in a one on one setting every day. Her “Safety Sam” rap, made for the children in her class to teach safety in outdoor play, is now recited by all the children in the Black River Head Start program. Using her gentle words to guide, she brings out the best in the little children in her room.
Stephanie Malone, Black River Development Corporation: Mrs. Stephanie Malone has been with the Head Start program for 8 years. With a warm, welcoming smile for each and every child in her classroom, she makes infants, toddlers, and their parents feel right at home. She is very soft spoken and patient with her children. She considers her job so much more than work and is willing to go above and beyond the tasks asked of her to meet the needs of the children and parents. She is even so good to document and take pictures and video of those firsts that so many parents miss while they are working. A mother herself, she loves her students and cares for them as if they were her own.
Ricky Pondexter, Southwest Arkansas Development Council: Mr. Ricky Pondexter has been a loyal friend of Head Start for many years. He has served in many leadership positions at the state, regional, and national level. He currently serves as the Treasurer for the Arkansas Head Start Association and the Region VI Head Start Association and has served as Assistant Treasurer for the National Head Start Association Board. He has represented Arkansas well and is a great advocate for Arkansas and the children and families we serve.