Kay Andrews Recounts Action Pathways Head Start Teaching Career in 1970s

Latericia ‘Kay’ Andrews, or Mrs. Kay as the children referred to her, fought back tears as she remembered her journey to Action Pathways Head Start, more than 40 years ago. What started as a simple case of curiosity drastically altered the path of her life and ignited a lifelong passion for teaching. 

All three of Mrs. Kay’s children were enrolled in Action Pathways Head Start in the mid-1970s, a program that did and still does offer an age-appropriate learning environment for children ages birth to five.  Like most children, Mrs. Kay’s eldest child was less than thrilled to go to school one morning, this sparked her curiosity. 

23784_101348719901298_1115673_n.jpg

“What kind of activities are they doing at Head Start? Why isn’t he more excited about school?” she wondered.

So Mrs. Kay started going to school with her son, and soon realized he was being a typical five-year-old, and that despite his reluctance to go to school, Head Start was providing him with all the learning skills he needed to begin public school the next year.

In 1976, she started volunteering with the 71st Street Head Start on Reily Road as a ‘Parent Rider’, now called a bus monitor, helping students on and off the school bus. After a year, she quickly jumped at the opportunity to become a paid assistant teacher at Head Start.  She enjoyed the convenience of being on the same schedule as her children.

“We all got up and went to school together, and at the end of the day, we went home together,” she recalled, “being an assistant teacher at Head Start didn’t feel like a job, I was with family." 

Despite being a young mom with hardly any prior experience in the classroom, Action Pathways saw Mrs. Kay’s passion for education and assisted her in obtaining her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.   The additional training she received not only gave her the confidence to become a better educator, but she also felt like a better mom.

“Working at Head Start boosted my self-esteem. It gave me the confidence to better care for my children, and my coworkers became my support system,” she explained.  “During this time, my husband had a major heart attack, but the Head Start staff stepped in, without having to ask, and helped me and my family get back on our feet."

One of the biggest challenges Mrs. Kay encountered during her teaching career was a lack of experience with special needs students. 

“During the 1970s, people didn’t understand kids with disabilities.  Many people thought we should just sit special needs children in a corner and ignore them,” Mrs. Kay explained.

Luckily, Mrs. Kay and Head Start had a differing opinion, so she always took extra steps to include special needs children in her classroom activities. She even recalls a student named Corey with special needs, who she now believes may have been autistic. He was barely able to participate at the beginning of the school year; however, Mrs. Kay took it upon herself to use songs and exercises to engage the child. 

“Corey was always running in class, so I would tell him ‘Walk inside, run outside,’ she remembered.  “But I wasn’t sure it was working until one day I ran to the telephone and Corey yelled, ‘Mrs. Kay, walk inside, run outside.'"

After giving more than a decade to Action Pathways Head Start, Mrs. Kay went on to work in other capacities with children, but she still keeps in touch with her ‘Head Start Children’ on Facebook and even runs into a few around Fayetteville. 

Her advice to a new generation of teachers; “Take every opportunity to go the extra mile for a child,” Mrs. Kay explains, “because you don’t know what their home life is like and you might be their only source of compassion and kindness.”

For more information on Action Pathways Head Start Program, visit: https://actionpathways.ngo/earlychildhood or call (910) 487-9800. Head Start is actively hiring, for more information, or to apply, visit: actionpathways.ngo/careers or call (910) 485-6131 ext. 1130.