New MCCC director hopes to help children succeed | News


Sara Dahlgren’s desire to care for others blossomed at a young age. 

As a high school student, Dahlgren joined a respite care program, where she helped take care of an individual with special needs. 

“I did that with an individual who was about the same age as me for quite a few years,” Dahlgren said. “I absolutely loved it, it was maybe one of my favorite jobs ever.”

The experience helped Dahlgren realize she wanted to go into the special education field, with the goal of becoming a special education teacher. After going to college, Dahlgren said her career goals shifted towards young children. 

“I kind of realized that I just wanted to be an advocate for the younger kids because they are our future,” Dahlgren said.

Earlier this month, the Manning Child Care Center Board announced Dahlgren as the new director for the center. She started filling-in the position on Monday, Dec. 5.

Dahlgren previously studied early childhood education at Iowa Western Community College. Before coming to the Manning Child Care Center, Dahlgren worked as a paraeducator at the IKM-Manning Community School Distrct for a year and served as the head cheerleading coach for the school district. 

From 2016 to 2018, Dahlgren was the lead infant teacher at the Manning Child Care Center. 

“It’s so relaxing just to be around them,” Dahlgren said of the babies she helped take care of. “Meeting those milestones and helping them reach them is just really, really special.”

One of Dahlgren’s goals is incorporating the Montessori method, which encourages hands-on and self-directed learning for children. 

“Eventually when they’re older, your end goal in life is to make sure that these kids have the emotional development to succeed in life,” Dahlgren said. “I think that when you do Montessori style, it just really boosts their confidence, knowing that they can do things and that you will be right behind them just ready to help.”

Down the line, Dahlgren said she wants to increase wages for the staff, as well as to make sure they’re getting quality employees.

“I think that making sure our employees know that they are teachers and not just a daycare worker is so important,” Dahlgren said. “The future is in our hands.”

Before returning to the Manning Child Care Center in August, Dahlgren ran an in-home daycare for three years. 

“I went from being home all the time, being at the center for a couple hours a day and now I’m here almost 50 hours a week sometimes, so it has changed tremendously, I think for the better,” Dahlgren said. “I love working, I love being everybody’s advocate and making sure that they are getting quality care.”

Dahlgren resides in Manning with her husband Austin and their 3-year-old daughter Blake. 

Dahlgren is a 2015 graduate of the IKM-Manning Community School District, saying she wanted to continue living in the area because of her family. Having her young daughter, Dahlgren said she wants her to feel like the small town is her family. 

“Everybody’s just your family,” Dahlgren said. “Everybody’s got your back and are ready to help you whenever you need it and I just really wanted to raise her in a community that was like that.”

The Manning Child Care Center takes care of approximately 80 children, Dahlgren said, so the building requires 15 full-time staff members. Lately, Dahlgren said they’ve been receiving applicants. 

“Right now we’re sitting pretty well, we just need to have a couple more,” Dahlgren said. “The burnout rate is so high in childcare, so I just need a couple more just so I’m not burning out my staff because they are extremely important and we need to be making sure their mental health is taken into consideration.”

With the center dealing with a short staff, Dahlgren said she’s appreciative of families who have been patient and understanding during the process. Dahlgren said she’s also thankful for the staff members who continue coming back with a positive attitude. 

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