The Original Head Starter

I had no idea just how far reaching one man’s work could be until I read the story of the “Father of Head Start”, Edward Ziglar. Dr. Ziglar passed away on February 7th in Connecticut. He was 88 years old.

As a child Ziglar benefited from programs provided by the local immigrant settlement house in Kansas City, Missouri.  He and his family, immigrants from Poland who did not speak English, received health and dental care, meals, social supports, and even the chance to learn English.  Throughout his career as a prominent Yale University developmental psychology professor, he worked to ensure that public policy associated with the welfare and education of children was translated into actions that focused on very young children and their families.  Dr. Ziglar is largely credited as the leader of the “whole child” approach to education; an approach that continues to be the foundational philosophy for Head Start.

Dr. Ziglar, at just 35 years old and already seen as an expert, was named to the national Head Start Planning Committee–a pilot program of then President Johnson to fight “the war on poverty”.  In his storied career he:  served as the first director of the Office of Child Development, (now the U.S. Administration for Children and Families), was an advisor to multiple White House administrations; and served as an expert consultant to multiple congressional committees.  Dr. Ziglar also conceived of and promoted the model that an educated early childhood workforce was critical to effective supports and the development of young children.  The result of that work is the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential–the most widely recognized credential among early childhood professionals.

As a direct outcome of Dr. Ziglar’s childhood and professional experiences, his prolific research and advocacy; and, his relentless belief that a child’s environment mattered, over 35 million children and their families have realized the benefits of participation in Head Start. Thank you Dr. Ziglar!