While parents work, they leave young children in the hands of others trained to develop their foundational skills.
Diana Wertz is one of those people entrusted by parents. Wertz has been the director of the College Avenue Early Learning Center for 14 months. “I’ve always enjoyed working with children,” she said.
After getting her degree in psychology from Boston College, Wertz decided to pursue her master’s in education. She’s been working with children since then in many capacities including as an early childhood and elementary classroom teacher, a Head Start supervisor and most recently as the assistant director at the Fort Riley teen center.
Originally from Westchester County, N.Y., Wertz moved to Manhattan in fall 2010 with her husband, who is stationed at Fort Riley. The couple, married for five years, previously lived in Alaska and Arizona.
Her previous stops had cold or heat, but not combined like in Kansas. “The weather is a little crazy with the storms you guys get, and it was so hot this summer,” she said.
Despite the weather, Wertz said she likes living in Manhattan. “People are very welcoming, very friendly,” she said.
She said the adjustment process was easy after moving here. “I’m used to having to adjust to new places and new people,” she said. “Also, Manhattan is a nice community.”
Wertz and her husband don’t have any children of their own, but Wertz has 20 children to care for at the learning center. “I enjoy being able to see them grow and learn new things,” she said.
The early learning center takes children from toddlers up until they’re ready for kindergarten. Wertz said many skills need to be developed before children are ready to go to school.
She said the goals are to teach children to do certain things for themselves as well as develop social skills.
Wertz said her favorite activity to do with the kids is prepare food with them. “The children really enjoy cooking, so we do a lot of that with them,” she said.
Wertz said her enjoyment of her job starts when she walks in during the mornings. “Kids make you smile,” she said. “They make you laugh. Nothing is better than coming to work and getting hugs from ten kids.”
Wertz said she’s making a difference with the work done at the learning center. “What we do every day makes a positive impact on their lives,” she said.