Estelle began her work with Head Start in June 1965 at the North Avenue Center in West Fresno as a Teacher Assistant. Estelle did not just help teachers; she also drove the Head Start bus, cooked meals, and provided social services advocacy, counseling, and referral services for participants. Her passion and commitment to children—in particular, children with special needs—quickly became known.
As a parent of a child with special needs herself, Estelle knew the struggles of finding medical resources and local support for her child. Her own experience led her to become a fierce advocate for families with special needs children in her community and at Head Start. She always shared her knowledge, including her support network and advocacy resources with staff and parents.
These resources often helped them navigate a medical and education system that neither embraced nor provided for the children and their families’ particular needs. Estelle knew the value of being in Head Start. She enrolled her daughter, Vivian, in the summer of 1968, when Fresno EOC offered the staff the opportunity to enroll their eligible children.
When the Ivy Community Center (now known as the Mary Ella Brown Community Center) opened in 1973, Estelle moved to the Ivy Head Start Center. She served as the Teacher Director for over 22 years! During these years at Ivy Head Start, her advocacy for full inclusion in preschool education blossomed. Estelle also provided community workshops for parents of children with special needs. She also trained Head Start staff and became a much sought-after panelist and knowledgeable speaker within Fresno and the surrounding counties. During her tenure at Ivy Head Start, Estelle received recognition from the Fresno Unified School District and Fresno County Office of Education for her advocacy. She received a certificate of merit as an Outstanding Teacher of Special Education. During this time, Estelle recognized the community’s void for foster care of adolescents and adults with disabilities. She opened a home for women with special needs—all while never neglecting her “day job” as Master Teacher and Director of Ivy Head Start.
In early 1995, Estelle became Fresno EOC Head Start 0 to 5’s first Center Director at Kings Canyon Head Start, where she continues to invest her time, talent, and efforts. During her time at Kings Canyon Head Start, Estelle continued her special education advocacy. She added mental health patient rights advocacy to ensure that ALL children receive equity in medical care. In 2007, she was recognized for her work in patient rights by the California Association of Mental Health Patient’s Rights Advocates as Provider of the Year.
Estelle has been a positive influence and an example to staff, children, and parents during her fifty-five years of service and commitment. In 2017, Head Start wanted to honor Estelle’s long-standing service and commitment to those we serve. Fresno EOC Head Start 0 to 5 celebrated Estelle by opening the Fresno EOC Estelle Dailey Head Start Center.
When we think of Estelle, we think of perseverance, mutual respect, passion for her work, caring, strong relationships, high expectations, inspiring, creative, and always professional. In her commitment to the children and families of Fresno EOC Head Start 0 to 5, Estelle possesses an absolute and unequivocal love for all children. She is resourceful and relentless in her efforts to meet individual children’s needs and foster a love of learning. Estelle regularly interacts with parents to engage them in the education process and form a partnership to ensure their child’s school readiness and future success. Teaching is hard work that pays high rewards as we watch our children grow and develop skills for success now and later in life. Many of the parents and children whose lives Estelle has touched and inspired during her tenure with Head Start have accomplished great successful careers in various fields.
Estelle is generous and goes far beyond providing a family a referral to an agency. In her 55 years, Estelle brought shoes, clothes, and jackets to children in need. She has taken food to homes, transported families to appointments, lent a listening ear, bought or secured donations for Christmas gifts. She helped families find employment and shared her own story. Estelle will and has always done whatever it takes to meet an individual or family’s needs.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not share the care Estelle has always shown her staff. Estelle’s staff can count on her to be one of their strongest, most passionate advocates. Her expectations are high, and her standards are even more significant. In her career, she has supervised and mentored eight (8) staff who have become Teacher Directors/Leaders in Head Start. She has also mentored many who have become Teachers.
To summarize Estelle’s positive influence on those with whom she works, we share a quote taken from Fresno EOC’s vision statements that characterize her rich influence:
As a philosophy of living, “Transforming and Inspiring” penetrates beyond the workplace. These few words define a commitment to the betterment of our families, neighborhoods, and communities. They present opportunities for all of us.
For the last fifty-five years, Estelle has lived this very philosophy. She has created those opportunities to transform and inspire the children and families we serve, our staff, the Head Start program, and Fresno EOC. Thank you, Estelle, for a job well done. Although we will miss your presence, your influence and legacy will remain with our program for years to come. We hope and wish the best is yet to come for your retirement journey. God Speed!