Women's History Month Spotlight: Brenda Turner, Head Start Teacher
As the world celebrates Women's History Month, it is essential to recognize the impact of women who have made a significant difference in the lives of those around them. One such person is Brenda Turner, a Head Start teacher at Northside Learning Center who recently celebrated her 35th year of working with Blue Ridge Community Action. Head Start is a Federal program that promotes children's school readiness from birth to age five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start has served over 36 million children since its' inception in 1965. Brenda started her career in early childhood education in Lenoir at a different child care center, and when someone asked her if she wanted a job at BRCA, she said she couldn't pass up the chance.
Brenda began at BRCA in 1988. For context, this was when monthly rent averaged $400.00 a month, and gas was just $.90 cents a gallon. "When I started working at Blue Ridge, I was a substitute teacher making $3 and some cents an hour. I walked to work every day!" Brenda laughed and shared during our interview. Despite the significant
obstacles and being a mother, she was determined to pursue opportunities for higher education. "First I got my CDA. Then I attended community college for my Associate's Degree," Brenda shared. "I even remember (BRCA Family and Child Development Director) Tina Kyes driving me to class a few times!" She laughed. Despite being a mother to a young son, she continued her education by attending classes at a satellite campus of Western Carolina Community College. She obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Birth to Kindergarten Education. Brenda explained it was hard for her to miss activities her son participated in while she was in school. However, now she realizes its positive impact on both of their lives. "I think it showed him that he could go to school too since he saw me going and saw me graduate."
Over the next three decades, she taught and cared for hundreds of children in Caldwell County. She is beloved in the local community, and her students and their families hold her in high regard. "I have former students requesting my classroom for THEIR children!" One of the best parts of her job is seeing her students grow into well-rounded members of society. Brenda shared that she has had former students graduate from different colleges, including Duke and NC State. Some of her kids became student-athletes, and some have become working professionals. "Sometimes kids will run up to me yelling 'Ms. Brenda! Ms. Brenda!' and they are 8 or 9 years old. I have even had teenagers remember me."
Many agency employees, community members, Head Start parents, and former students agree that the impact of Brenda's positivity and her role at Northside Children's Learning Center is significant over time. Her dedication to Head Start students and Blue Ridge Community Action has been nothing short of inspirational, and her unwavering commitment to the education and well-being of children has inspired others to follow in her footsteps. One such student, Lisa Williams, was a student of Brenda's years ago. Lisa is now Brenda's teacher's assistant at Northside. Lisa is now following in her former teacher's footsteps by continuing her education as a working parent. Well-educated teachers as exemplary role models in early childhood education are a cornerstone of Head Start programs, like Brenda and Lisa's classroom. Research consistently shows that children who participate in Head Start programs have more positive outcomes than those who do not. They are more likely to succeed in school, have better health outcomes, and develop strong social and emotional skills. When asked why she has stayed with Blue Ridge so long, Brenda shared that the people she works with are truly like her family. Her goal is to continue to work at BRCA for many more years and laughed while saying: "...maybe soon I will start seeing my student's grandchildren come through my classroom!"
"Sometimes kids will run up to me yelling 'Ms. Brenda! Ms. Brenda!' and they are 8 or 9 years old. I have even had teenagers remember me." - Brenda Turner
As we honor Women's History Month, let us not forget the contributions of Brenda and other women like her, who have significantly impacted the lives of others through their tireless work and dedication. Their work and legacies remind one of the impacts one person can have on an entire community through serving others.
Interview and post by: Brittany Correa