So you know when you think you know someone, and then you realize that you’ve just scratched the surface? Well, that’s what happened when I got together with Michelle for another entry in “A Study in Pink”.
Michelle Dove is the Head Start/Child Development Director for Kings Community Action Organization. While her title sounds pretty fancy, it all started in the simplest of ways. She was a mom, coming to a new town when her husband was stationed at NAS Lemoore. She was a stay at home mom, but soon she started watching children from other families. It was then she pursued being certified as a family childcare provider. That simple step, was the beginning of a path that would see her change her educational focus and eventually bring her to something that is so much more than a just a career.
When she came to Lemoore, she was taking some classes with more of a business emphasis. After becoming certified though, she decided to take some child development classes to “help me understand kids, and to be a better parent.” From there she went into the base child development program, volunteering and eventually working in their center. As time went by and the navy was going through changes, and even some downsizing, she came to KCAO as a teacher while finishing her degree.
At KCAO she has worked her way up the ladder. As we talked, she went through all of the different positions she has held over the years. It seemed as if she had done everything there! From teaching kids to running programs and working the administrative side. And while there was a time where she stepped out of KCAO to work at the West Hills College child development center, she did not stay away long. Why?
“How do you meet people where they are at,” she told me. “How do you help them know they can overcome?” While her stint at West Hills was very good, it was during this time she realized that she could have more of a community impact at KCAO. There she would serve a larger base including disabled children and disadvantaged families. That she found, is where her heart was at.
When Michelle arrived in Lemoore she was concerned about the safety of her daughters. “In the Midwest, a school building has one door in and out,” she said. The openness of California schools concerned the mother of two. Those concerns then went on to influence how she treats parents. She told me, “I want parents to know and feel that I am protecting their kids”. Not only are the children and their parents her concern, but also the teachers and employees that work at the centers. Her thesis was on team building, and she believes that casting a vision and bringing everyone on board with that vision is vital.
I had to laugh as she confessed that with each new position she was offered, she always had an “I can’t do that” type of reaction. Then, with a little faith, she would go out and get the job done. Having worked at so many levels, has given her insight into the victories and frustrations that her employees face daily. “I was able to lead and guide in the things that I used to be disgruntled about,” she told me. While she may have felt stretched and taken out of her comfort zone, more than once during the course of her career, it seemed as if it was great training for how she wanted to lead. As she told me one of her favorite quotes from Stephen Covey, it seemed to speak to the very core of who this woman is. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”