Ever since she was young girl, Chanel Hollis wanted to be a teacher.
Like many children, she played school with her siblings, standing in front as the teacher while her brothers and sister followed along as her students.
In the summer of 2007, after graduating from Felician College with a degree in early childhood education, Hollis began working at New Community Harmony House Early Learning Center.
Her calm and gentle demeanor has proven Hollis as a force to be reckoned with in the pre-kindergarten classroom at HHELC. For example, Hollis said that one day a child who was new to HHELC was crying inconsolably after being brought to the classroom. With her steady presence and soft-spoken words, Hollis reassured the new student that HHELC was a welcoming place.
“When he realized it was a safe place to be, he stopped,” Hollis said.
Sister Maurice Okoroji, director of HHELC, said that Hollis is “exemplary” in executing lessons, caring for her students and in communicating.
“She is a soft-spoken individual (and) very respectful of the children and their families, as well as her colleagues,” Okoroji said.
The school day starts at 8 a.m. but Hollis prefers to arrive at her classroom by 7:30 a.m. Each day is a whirlwind of group time, activities, lessons, stations, meals, snacks, outdoor activities, nap, story time, music and finger play. With the help of her teaching assistant, Sondra Britton, Hollis oversees 15 three- and four-year-olds through every carefully planned activity. Each song reinforces a lesson learned. Each finger play refines a fine motor skill.
“With the little ones, I enjoy that you can see the progress in them,” she said. “You can do so much. They absorb everything.”
Hollis said that one of her goals is to increase parent involvement in her classroom. She already promotes positive reinforcement on her bulletin board, where parents get their photo displayed when they come and participate.
Born and raised in Newark, Hollis attended Newton Street School and later graduated from Malcolm X Shabazz High School. She previously lived at the New Community townhome residences for families.
In her free time, Hollis said she enjoys spending time with her mother and siblings, going to the gym and experimenting with new ways to cook vegetables.