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Sheila Pickel

–  Sheila Pickel, early childhood supervisor, Reedsburg, WI

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Head Start helped me to become the person I am today. I started out by being a parent volunteer with my first son, then continued on volunteering with my second son. During a home visit in the fall of 1983, the teacher assistant at that time asked if I would be interested in a substitute bus driver job. It took a lot of persuading to convince me I would be a good candidate. I grew up in a very large family and spent most of my time helping my father on the farm and my mother in the house. I was number seven out of 10 children. We always played school, and of course, I was the teacher. In high school, I worked as a tutor for children who needed extra help in certain subjects. From that point on, I always wanted to be a teacher. But I had one downfall: I was so shy I was afraid to talk in front of people and had a hard time approaching people.

I got married right out of high school and was blessed with three beautiful children. All three of my children had the privilege to attend Head Start, which helped me grow socially by giving me a chance to meet other parents and be part of their team. From the time I was offered the sub bus driver job to now, I climbed what I called "the ladder of success." My journey started out as being hired as the sub bus driver, and then bus driver, nutrition aide, teacher assistant, teacher director, director of the Reedsburg Area Learning Center, family advocate 0–5 and assistant director, home-based educator 3–5, and, currently, early childhood supervisor.

I graduated from Madison Area Technical College with a two-year Associate degree in Early Childhood in 2004. I was the first one out of my family to attend a college. Without the financial and moral support of our Head Start agency, my coworkers, and family, I do not think I would have been able to attend and finish my degree. Just this past summer, I graduated from Ashford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education, in which I made the dean's list. I could never have done this without the support from my Head Start Agency, coworkers and my family. I look back to where I started my journey as a shy girl afraid to say anything, to where I am today. I enjoy speaking in front of a group of people and knowing that it is okay to make mistakes, as that is how we learn. Head Start gave me the chance to advance within our agency, which in turn made me become a more confident, dedicated person. I have been employed with Renewal Unlimited, Inc. now for 28 years. Thank you, Head Start, for helping me become the professional I am today!