Cuyahoga County, OH - Step Forward is urgently hiring for Head Start and Early Head Start staff ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
The program promotes school readiness for low-income children ages six months to three years old.
Currently, the agency is hiring for about 100 ECE and Head Start positions, 86 of which are in the classroom.
“We need teachers,” Dr. Thea Wilson, Step Forward’s Vice President of Children and Families, said. “I am looking for anyone who loves children, not just a warm body. You have to love children.”
Fully staffed, Step Forward is confident it could open about 17 more classrooms and serve dozens of additional children.
“We keep our ratios low,” Dr. Wilson explained.
The facility with the most openings is Louis Stokes Early Learning Center, located on East 173rd Street. There, Nicole Hawthorne, the site administrator, is doing everything she can to recruit and retain employees.
“We’re having job fairs and having the staff advertise when they’re at the grocery store, talking about Head Start,” she said. “Social media, also. And the moms and pops, who are coming in here. ‘Do you have anyone you know that is interested? Are you, as a parent, interested to come into our program?’”
Hawthorne was at the facility August 12th decorating the hallways. School is set to begin September 6th.
“Let’s do this for the children,” she pleaded. “We’re all here for the children. If you have any care, any love for children – or passion – please come. You don’t know the impact you have on these little minds and what you can do for them and their future.”
Hawthorne began as a Head Start parent herself. She eventually decided to start teaching and has been working in education for more than 28 years.
“Once they get that Head Start here, you don’t understand the impact it has on the rest of their lives. They come back and they have their college degree. They have done so much because their beginning was with Head Start.”
Dr. Wilson is now thinking outside the box, considering how she can recruit parents to become teachers. She is also asking for Cuyahoga County businesses to invest in children’s futures. Perhaps, she suggested, companies would be willing to let their employees take paid time off to volunteer.
“Each child can gain 80 percent of their knowledge for their lifetime from zero to five. That’s tremendous!” Dr. Wilson said. “If we miss that opportunity, those children miss an entire piece of their life.”
Dr. Wilson fears without enough employees to meet the student-teacher ratios, some children could be left behind.
“Especially us; we need the best teachers in those classroom for the youngest children because we know the critical time frame we have to engage children and to educate them and prepare them for kindergarten,” she said.
Step Forward remains the largest Head Start program in the state of Ohio. The agency has invested in its teachers most recently by providing them with a $3 per hour pay raise in 2021, offering education benefits to get a college degree and more. Dr. Wilson has also started focusing on teacher wellness.
“Teaching has changed over the years and I am just so impressed with the staff we have now who are here to support you coming in but also I am impressed with the field and how it has grown over the years,” she said.
To apply for a position at Step Forward, visit our website at StepForwardToday.org/JoinOurTeam or call the main office at (216) 696-9077.