Hobe Sound Early Learning Center names new director

28-year-old Ashley Connors joined center in 2017 as teacher of 1-year-olds

Ashley Connors

The Hobe Sound Early Learning Center has announced the hiring of its new center director.

Ashley Connors, who joined the center in 2017 as lead teacher of 1-year-olds, is being touted as “ideally positioned” to uphold the legacy of her highly respected predecessor while guiding the continued success of the beloved community organization. She will preside over 30 employees and new programs and expansions unlike any in the history of the 60-year-old organization.

“Ashley knows the culture and has very strong relations with staff as well as in the community,” says Rob Kloska, president of the center’s board of directors. “We were very impressed with how dynamic and engaged she is and have high levels of confidence in her ability to both carry on Mary (King’s) programs and put together some of her own as we continue to make advancements.”

Connors assumes the lead role that was held for 30 years by the retiring King. In addition to securing the independent nonprofit’s generational appeal – as the children and grandchildren of former attendees regularly make up much of the current student body – King’s leadership solidified the center’s standing among the most sought-after child development programs in the region.

“These are some big shoes to fill, but I was really fortunate that Mary took me under her wing when I was first hired and she’s served as my mentor for the last five years,” said the 28-year-old Connors, of Palm City. “When she recommended me for the position, I was so thrilled and humbled to receive her confidence for this incredible opportunity.”

Through her final month in February, King will be training Connors, although she maintains that her availability as mentor is a lifelong commitment.

“Ashley is going to do amazing things,” King said. “She has the heart, the culture and the understanding of what we’ve tried to create. She’s passionate, she’s energetic and I couldn’t be happier that she’s the one. Plus, anytime she needs me, I’ve told her I’m one of the people that she has in her back pocket.”

Tom Weber, CEO of the center, noted the speed with which Connors’ positive approach made an impact.

“The beauty of Ashley’s leadership that I’ve seen is in how quickly she’s energized the entire staff,” he said. “Her enthusiasm is really contagious and there’s a sense of excitement everywhere I look at the center. We made the right move with both Mary’s legacy and the future.”

Founded in 1962, Hobe Sound Early Learning Center cares for children ages 1 to 4 years old and is acclaimed for enrichment programs emphasizing development of motor skills, as well as pre-reading, pre-writing, social and emotional skills and the practice of conscious discipline, about which Connors is particularly passionate.

“Conscious discipline is a social-emotional learning program that really dives into how we can hold ourselves accountable,” Connors said. “It helps kids work through their feelings and it’s a vital resource for teachers on how to handle conflict and how to teach self-confidence, even to children as young as 1 years old.”

Teaching 1-year-old children is a topic Connors knows well, having taught classrooms with as many as 12 of them for five years. The center will soon accept – for the first time – infants, addressing a largely underserved area of childcare.

The center recently attained a $1.5 million grant from the Hobe Sound Community Chest, enabling expansions of classrooms and teachers, parking, transportation options and kitchen improvements. News of increased capacity is comforting to families on the center’s lengthy waiting list.

“The fact that we’re expanding and able to grow and serve more children in the community is really exciting,” Connors said. “We care for and love these children and understand they deserve a rich, safe, learning environment. Just to see their little milestones, work together with them on certain goals – and knowing we’re a part of that foundation and the parents trust us – is the most important difference the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center makes.”

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