Community Hills Early Learning Center (CHELC) has a new director who is a familiar face to the children and families. Daniel Charles became the Director of CHELC on Sept. 1 but previously served as a teacher at the center since December 2022.
Charles has been an early childhood educator for about 23 years and prior to starting his teaching career, he worked as a buyer for Newark Public Schools, obtaining goods and services for the public school system.
He was successful in his role as a buyer and hadn’t thought about becoming an educator until someone approached him with the idea, telling him he would be a great teacher. When he thought about it further, he decided to pursue that career path. He got a provisional teaching license and went back to school to get a P-3 certificate, which allows a person to teach preschool through third grade. And he never looked back.
Charles originally decided to enter the education arena for the children and families.
“I wanted to make an impact on young lives and be able to mold and pour into and have a hand in something that’s great,” he said.
Before coming to CHELC, Charles served as the director of the preschool program at Passaic Community College in Paterson. When Sister Maurice Okoroji left CHELC in June, Charles decided to apply for the director position because of his past director experience and his familiarity with the center.
New Community Director of Mission Frances Teabout is pleased to have Charles at CHELC.
“Mr. Charles is a dedicated educator with a wealth of experience as an early childhood teacher and administrator,” she said. “He came to Community Hills as a teacher and assumed the director role when Sister Maurice left to accept a position in Nigeria.”
Charles believes his coming to CHELC was ordained because of his strong connections to New Community. He was born in Newark and lived at Hayes Homes directly across the street from where CHELC is today. He was a parishioner at Queen of Angels Church, where New Community founder Monsignor William J. Linder served as priest and many of the others who helped start and build New Community worshipped. Later in life, Charles lived at New Community Manor Family at 72 Hayes St. in Newark.
Throughout the years, Charles has had a positive opinion about New Community and its mission.
“New Community has always proven to be a help to the disadvantaged,” he said. “So I always admired and was always inspired by what New Community stands for.”
Now that he’s a part of the organization, he hopes to further uplift its reputation and to serve the children and families in the community.
“I want to put New Community on the map as that place of excellence, that place where people say, that’s where we need to go. That place of hope,” Charles said.
Charles has spent his career serving others. He is a disabled Navy veteran who served our country before entering the education field. He said his current role is another form of servitude.
“I’m serving the children, serving the parents, serving the teachers and serving the community,” he said. “And bringing all those things together with a common goal to achieve excellence.”
His favorite part about working in education is seeing children succeed long after he is an everyday part of their lives. This past school year, a former student mentioned him during the speech he gave at his middle school graduation. Hearing about the impact he had on the student was very meaningful to him.
Charles sees himself as an advocate for teachers, in addition to students, parents and the community. With experience as a teacher himself, he understands the importance of sharing information and techniques and encourages that.
His main goal is to work to ensure children, families and staff members are in a positive environment that promotes success.
“I believe in people. I believe in investing in people, pouring into people,” Charles said. “I want them to excel. I want them to achieve. I want everybody to win.”