Zackey settles in at YS Community Children’s Center
- Published: June 17, 2022
Though she’s only been at the helm of the YS Community Children’s Center for about three weeks, new Director Dana Zackey told the News this week that she’s settling in at the 75-year-old village school and making it feel like home.
“The people are great, the staff is great,” she said. “I’m so happy — in all ways — to be here.”
Zackey took over the director position following the resignation of Malissa Doster, who was in the position for five years.
Children’s Center board President Caroline Mullin said Zackey was chosen from a pool of applicants not only for her experience — she’s worked 20 years in early childhood education — but also for her disposition, which Mullin called “bright and cheerful.”
“That’s the sort of thing we can’t train somebody to have — a personality,” Mullin said. “She’s engaging and has great perspective … and strengths in curriculum development. That’s going to help the staff to continue to grow and develop.”
Mullin added that Doster was present to support Zackey’s transition into the position before moving on to a new job in Pennsylvania, which made the changeover smoother not only for Zackey, but for the entire staff.
“It was a nice bridge for staff that the two directors already understood each other,” Mullin said.
A 2001 graduate of Lebanon High School with a degree in early childhood education from the University of Cincinnati, Zackey said she’s been interested in educating kids since she was a kid herself. She recalled inviting her grade school friends over to act as de facto students while she stood in front of a chalkboard and presided over the imaginary class.
She was, she said, emulating one of her earliest educational inspirations, a first-grade teacher and reading specialist who modeled good teaching for Zackey at just the right time in her young life.
“Her name was Ms. Taffler, and I was struggling with reading,” Zackey said. “She stopped and took time with me and helped me grow until I became one of the best readers in the class. It was really special, and it inspired me.”
Zackey’s connection to education goes deeper, too, she said — it’s something of a family trait.
Her great-grandfather, Byron Morton — whom she called “Papaw” — was a longtime teacher, principal and superintendent in the Butler Township school system. He also served as superintendent for Montgomery County schools, as assistant superintendent of schools for the state of Ohio and as a professor at University of Dayton. Morton Middle School in Vandalia is named in his honor.
“I’m very proud of that history,” she said. “It’s an honor to me to continue education as my path.”
Despite these early associations, Zackey said that, as a young adult, she briefly considered a career in music. She spent time singing with a faith-based band via Keynote International, which is affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ and headquartered in Carmel, Ind. Having had a lifelong passion for music, but concerned about the career opportunities in that field, Zackey said she was ultimately encouraged to pursue what would become her vocation by a fellow musician.
“Our drummer told me I was good with his kids and that I should consider getting into education,” she said.
Since then, Zackey has worked as a teacher and a childcare director with HeadStart in Fairborn and as a curriculum director with Creative World of Learning Childcare, which previous director Doster managed before coming to the Children’s Center. Zackey said this combination of past work experience laid a good foundation for the role she’s currently filling at the Children’s Center.
“I’m wearing more hats at a time than I used to, so I’m putting all my knowledge together,” she said. “I’ve got challenges here, but I’m learning how to hold all the hats.”
Zackey lives with her husband, Shawn, and 6-year-old son, John, a stone’s throw from the village in Springfield Township. That proximity, she said, didn’t hurt when she decided to pursue the position at the Children’s Center — “It’s 15 minutes from my house!” she said — but that her interest lay primarily in stepping into a leadership role.
“Where I was working previously, I was teaching the teachers, but I had a passion for running my own ship,” she said. “I liked the idea of being the leader of a team, getting to be part of a community and keep it growing.”
Zackey said she’s looking forward to the center’s slate of summer programming — in which her son will be participating — including trips to Urban Air Trampoline Park, Cox Arboretum, the Kettering Aquatic Center, Newport Aquarium and Cincinnati Zoo. Enrollment is full at the moment, with a waiting list for new students, which both Zackey and Mullin attributed to the school’s continued efforts to keep the student-to-teacher ratio low.
Looking ahead, Zackey’s broad goals for the center are, she said, fairly conventional: maintain and grow funding, support students and families and keep enrollment up. Beyond that, she’s interested in exploring how to create more connections between the Children’s Center and the wider community.
“How can we keep the community connected and give the children of this community our knowledge? I want to make sure there’s always good vision being promoted from the center,” she said.
Mullin also remarked on “good vision” — in this case, describing Zackey.
“She’s reorganized the physical spaces and wants to have more art classes — she has some grand visions,” Mullin said. “I love when somebody comes in with a vision; it means they’re not satisfied with the status quo.”
The YS Community Children’s Center currently has open positions on its board of directors and is seeking applicants. Those interested are asked to contact Mullin at firstname.lastname@example.org.