• Cynthia Matthews

Giving Children a Head Start in Jennings, Florida

Sheri - Jennings

I recently had the opportunity to interview Sheri Anastasio, the ECMHSP Center Director in Jennings, Florida. Please keep reading to learn more about why her leadership at our Jennings Center is so important.

Please tell me about your background. How did you start working for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project?

I worked at a Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) and was a Center Director for over five years at a private center.  Upon receiving my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University, I moved on to teach first grade in public school.  I learned it was not the best use of my skills.  Instead, directing and managing a center was my passion.  At the time, one of my friends was working as a teacher at the ECMHSP Jennings center.  I had previously worked with her at the private center and she told me they needed a center director.  I was hesitant to apply because this was the first time I had heard about this organization, but after some research, I felt it was the right fit.  Two years later, I am still here!

Sheri's Family

What made you a good candidate for the position? Why did you see yourself working at ECMHSP?

My background in the classroom and as a center director made me a good candidate.  I had been looking for a large center to manage, so this was a great opportunity for my professional growth.

How do you maintain strong relationships with parents?

Although I don’t speak Spanish, my staff will gladly interpret for me.  I want our farmworker families to know we have an open-door policy to encourage open communication.

What is your favorite part of the work you do at ECMHSP?

Serving the children and working with my staff to make this happen every day.  It takes the entire team to accomplish this goal.

What are some of the struggles of your position?

Having enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks that need to be completed.  Being short staffed is another problem we face.

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What would you consider your team’s biggest strength?

Providing for the parents and children in need.  Our team goes above and beyond in this area. For example, at times we work longer hours to provide transportation to doctors’ appointments and anything the parents and children need.

What are the center’s community partnerships?

We work with Hamilton County Schools, which is where our children will transition when they’re ready for kindergarten.  Another partnership is with Early Steps, which is Florida’s early intervention system that offers services for infants and toddlers from birth through 36 months with conditions likely to result in a developmental delay.  Other partnerships include North Florida Pediatrics and Meridian Behavioral Health.

What are your expectations for this season?

To further grow my team and promote teamwork.  I want to serve as many children as possible and provide services to the parents. We’re currently providing high-quality early learning education to 42 children enrolled in our Head Start program.

This past November, The Huffington Post did a video story about our ECMHSP Jennings Center in Florida, featuring Sheri Anastasio and her team. Click here to watch it!

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