During Black History Month, it is important to celebrate and honor the contributions of Black educators. From historically recognizable figures like the philosopher Dr. Cornell West, to educators making strides locally, efforts for inclusion and advancement do not go unnoticed. Breaking barriers and creating opportunities for children and families of color is especially important today provided the continued disparities in access to adequate and quality resources.
La Shon Tillie-Jones, site director of Nesbitt Center, a Pacific Clinics Head Start site located in Altadena, is creating opportunities for children and their families through her role. She provides quality comprehensive care and education to support advancement and self-sufficiency. She shares her views and insights into the educational system and why she enjoys working at Pacific Clinics.
Where did you grow up and go to school? Were there educational differences between where you attended school and where you lived?
I grew up in Los Angeles and attended school in the Canoga Park Area. I noticed that schools in the valley provided more programs, more supplies and better equipment than the schools in my home community.
Are there any black pioneers in education that influenced your decision to enter the education field?
My grandmother influenced my decisions to become an educator. She understood the importance of education and how it could help end the cycle of poverty. She taught preschool and later became a foster parent to help children in need.
Why did you choose to work for Pacific Clinics’ Head Start program and what do you love most about your job?
I wanted to work with Pacific Clinics’ Head Start to have an opportunity to work with children ages birth to three years of age. At this age, children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. I love when infants and toddlers reach milestones. For example, when they begin to crawl, walk, or talk. All babies and toddlers need positive early learning experiences to foster their intellectual, social, and emotional development, and to lay the foundation for school success.
Nesbitt classrooms have dolls that represent diverse ethnicities. Why is it important to have dolls that represent the children we serve?
Diversity activities teach and show our young children to respect and celebrate the differences in all people. Learning about different cultures offers new experiences for them.
What do you hope to improve or influence within our country’s current education system?
We need to acknowledge and address overcrowding in schools. I also think we should provide more access to high-quality early childhood education programs like Head Start / Early Head Start.
What advice would you give to young Black professionals entering the education field?
I would advise that they continue their education. They should also try to be involved in policy development to create concrete steps that result in meaningful decisions.