A Head Start
Victoria Ankrah ’06 MA remembers how, while attending Montclair State, early childhood education instructor Elizabeth Kendall made her want to devote herself to nurturing children.
“She was extremely inspiring,” Ankrah says. “She made you just want to change the world of little people, little people we had to inspire and educate.”
Now the accolades are about Ankrah, who is executive director of the Acelero Learning Camden Philadelphia Head Start, which serves more than 1,400 children up to age 5 in eleven facilities. Acelero was named by Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit organization focused on reforming education to better meet the needs of underserved children, as having one of the most effective Head Start programs in the country, and praised for its professional development for teachers, engagement with families and specially designed instruction for dual-language learners (primarily English and Spanish).
“There are a lot of people who think that funding for Head Start should be cut and that it’s not making a difference and it’s not changing lives,” Ankrah says, “but I’m an example that Head Start works.”
Ankrah says she took lessons from her time early in her career as a teacher in Paterson, New Jersey.
“I was deeply concerned about the children who were in my class. A majority of them were not on grade level. That was heartbreaking,” Ankrah recalls. “I knew if I wanted to make a change in this field, then I had to go back to the source of it. I knew that early childhood would have to be the source of it.”
Ankrah might be emulating Kendall.
“I think what makes me an effective leader is my ability to inspire others,” she says. “When I’m passionate about something, I’m drawn to create that passion in others.”
- Written by Tom Kertscher for the Fall/Winter 2019 Montclair magazine