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Charlene Barkes

LAUSD/DACE - West Valley Occupational Center

Though it has been more than 20 years since Charlene Barkes was a student in the Child Care Occupations program at West Valley Occupational Center (WVOC), she continues to maintain close contact with her former instructor, Sandi Harris. "I just loved Mrs. Harris," says Charlene, "she has so much knowledge and experience in the field, and she's still a mentor to me after all of these years." Charlene also took classes in administration which have certainly helped along the way. She held administrative positions at two other preschools before her arrival at St. Bernardine's Children's Center (SBCC), where she has been Director for the last eight years. "I opened the school," she explains, and goes on to say how proud she is of the excellent reputation it has established since then.

"Our Center has been voted No. 1, for six years in a row, by the Daily News 'Readers Choice' poll," Charlene declares with pride. Perhaps that is the reason the Center's present enrollment tops 200, and there is a lengthy waiting list of very patient parents.

Charlene, whose very first job as a preschool teacher was through the campus em­ployment office in 1984, continues to draw recognition for her excellent teaching skills. In 2003, the Daily News voted her "Best Teacher." She is responsible for children, staff, and the daily management SBCC. Asked what occupies her time the most, she half-seriously declares, "Paperwork!" On any given day, she must be available to interview prospective parents wanting to enroll their children, plan the children's activities and take an observer's role when required. She loves the daily interaction with the children, and the fact that her program is so successful. Above all, she wants to continue "to provide a very loving, happy environment" for her young charges.

"I want to keep our program as well-rounded as possible, to meet the needs of all of our kids," Charlene says.

Of her memorable experiences at West Valley, she says, "It was great. WVOC helped to place me in the position I enjoy today."

LAUSD/DACE - West Valley Occupational Center Web site

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