LIVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston’s Peanut Shell Early Learning Center at the West Essex YMCA has hired Stephanie Anderson as the new director of the Center. Anderson, who be came the director in Sept., boasts strong teaching experience and expertise in working with children of all abilities. State-licensed Peanut Shell is the only childcare center in Livingston accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

According to the YMCA, Anderson brings a love of teaching that began in childhood to her new job as director of Peanut Shell Early Learning Center at the West Essex YMCA.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,’’ said Anderson, recalling how she would arrange the family play room into a classroom and designate her three siblings as students.

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Anderson said she has found her niche at the West Essex Y. “It’s unusual to work with so many passionate people who dedicate their time to a remarkable organization.’’

“Stephanie’s passion for teaching and her expertise working with children of all abilities make her a perfect fit for the job,’’ said West Essex Y Executive Director Helen Flores.

Anderson uses a broad range of teaching techniques to address children’s different abilities and incorporates lots of movement in the learning process. She plans to expand the Peanut Shell’s arts and literacy programming with monthly units on artists and authors.

“Early childhood is such a vital time for growth and development,” she said. “Young children learn best through play.’’

Developing children’s social and emotional awareness so that they learn to advocate for themselves is key. “Only when a child can ask for help or tell another child they don’t want to play a game can all the academic learning come,’’ she said.

“Young children should love school. It should be fun, warm, and inviting,’’ added Anderson.

“I have always felt passionate about closing the achievement gap in education, and working for the Y allows me to level the playing field for children who otherwise might miss out on a quality education,’’ Anderson said.

In high school, Anderson babysat for neighborhood children, including one who had autism. While earning her bachelor’s degree at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township, she worked with young children with autism and other disabilities at the ARC of Morris.

As an AmeriCorps volunteer, Anderson coached high school basketball and taught yoga and healthy eating initiatives to children in public housing. She worked in New York City teaching hospitalized children ages 4 to 10 diagnosed with cognitive disabilities and psychological impairments.

Anderson earned a master’s degree in childhood education from Pace University in New York and worked as an educational administrator. Prior to joining the Y, she was director of a multi-location art and play-based preschool, managing a team of 25 teaches and teaching yoga.

She grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Clifton with her husband, James, and their two dogs, Sadie and Vanessa.