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Early Childhood Education Pioneer Brodie Dies At 91

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by Keith Morelli
Tampa Bay Online

Altamese Brodie, a pioneer in early childhood education whose philosophies and practices defined 55 years of teaching black youngsters, died Wednesday. She was 91.

“She was born and reared right here in Tampa,” said her daughter, Josephine Hubbard. “She goes back quite a ways.”

As a junior at Middleton High School, Brodie volunteered at Helping Hand Day Nursery, then on Central Avenue, a preschool for black children.

Brodie’s work as a volunteer in 1935 tapped her talent for teaching and love of children, Hubbard said.

“My mother realized then that she loved that profession, and that became her life’s work,” Hubbard said. “She became a teacher and then director. All told, she was there for 55 years. Ten thousand preschoolers graduated from Helping Hand during my mother’s tenure.”

Most of that time, the school taught only black children, Hubbard said.

“It was segregated,” she said.

Brodie ushered in the era of integration.

“She didn’t allow racial or socioeconomic issues to be barriers,” Hubbard said. “Before segregation ended, they were integrated.”

Hubbard said the curriculum Brodie developed became the model for the Head Start program.

“Before there was Head Start,” Hubbard said, “there was Helping Hand.”

The program focused on family and preparing children to attend school, Hubbard said.

Once retired, Brodie traveled, lecturing throughout Florida on early childhood development and the program she established, Hubbard said.

Among graduates of Helping Hand: former state Sens. Les Miller and James Hargrett, Hubbard said.

The Helping Hand Day Nursery was founded by Clara Alston in 1924. Since its earliest days in a two-story frame house on Central Avenue, the program has provided “the same care that the mother would provide if she was able to stay home,” Brodie said in a 1999 interview that marked the 75th anniversary of the school.

“The nursery was like a salvation” for working mothers, she said, offering not only education childhood development but also healthful meals for children of families in need.

The school has expanded to three locations and teaches hundreds of preschool-age children.

Brodie’s granddaughter, Valerie Hubbard-Goddard, who served 12 years as executive director of Helping Hand after her grandmother’s retirement, is chairwoman of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. She advises and trains preschool teachers and administrators nationwide.

Hubbard-Goddard said her grandmother’s work lives on.

“Her life was one of service and dedication to the children in our community,” Hubbard-Goddard said. “She was my mentor. The passion I have for service and for children and families is a direct result of who she was and what she imparted to me.”

Funeral arrangements are being made through the Ray Williams Funeral Home. Visitation is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, with family present the final hour, at the funeral home, 301 N. Howard Ave.

The funeral will begin at noon Wednesday at Tyer Temple United Methodist Church, 3305 N. 15th St., with burial afterward at Garden of Memories Cemetery.

Donations can be made through the funeral home to the Altamese Brodie scholarship fund at Hillsborough Community College.

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