Early Childhood Director wants to help DCSD students grow, change the world
By Melissa Rollins, Editor, email@example.com
The Darlington County School District recently announced the hiring on Kacy Keels as the district’s Director of Early Childhood Education. Keels worked previously at Thornwell School for the Arts, as well as in a district in Columbia.
“I’ve been in education for ten years but even as an undergrad and in graduate school I worked with children,” Keels said. “I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the education system, I just didn’t know how until I went through my student teaching.”
It wasn’t quite the training she expected, which pushed her even further into a desire to make a difference in the education system.
“It really wasn’t a great experience,” Keels said. “I was with a teacher who was disgruntled and was having a hard time. It was then that I knew that there had to be something more, because I wanted to help. I decided then to go to grad school where I got my master’s in Language and Literacy, where we focused on how children learn to read and write and how to be a coach to teachers.”
Encouragement from a professor spurred that inclination to reach both educators and students.
“I had a teacher in grad school who told me that once I finished working with the little ones to get involve with adults,” Keels said. “Since then, I’ve really wanted to help everyone, students and teachers. Students have such a small little voice sometimes in the world of education and I wanted to reach out and do a little more.”
Keels said that it wasn’t just one teacher who influenced her but many.
“There are a lot of teachers that I met along the way that I learned a lot from that inspired me to do what I do today,” Keels said. “We think that high school is boring but I had a wonderful teacher who taught us to think and put our thoughts into a research paper. It wasn’t just about answering questions; it was about our thoughts and how to communicate those with others. She really empowered us.”
Keels, a mother of two, said that she understands concerns that parents have when it comes to Early Childhood Education and the push to be the best from the very start.
“With Early Childhood Education, especially in kindergarten now, people have concerns with it being a watered-down first grade classroom with kids sitting at desks, the urge to have all these high stakes testing and be on top,” Keels said. “Within that race, it turns kids away from school and away from reading; that is not what I believe in at all. I think children need to develop a strong love for reading. They need to enjoy it. They need to be passionate about it and they need to feel like they are going to learn from it. Also, with early childhood, language and play are so very important for their development.”
Keels said that she has been meeting with literacy coaches and principals to see what the district is already doing right and how they can improve.
“Darlington County has a lot of great things going on,” Keels said. “They have the summer reading program. Going to school is hard in the summer. I was talking to the literacy coaches and they were telling me how some of the students would come into the program not happy about having to go to school in the summer and left the program loving reading. That is all that matters. We’ve got the BookMobile which we hope to get around to the whole district. Really, we just need to be promoting literacy and getting books in the hands of children, whether they can read them or not. We need to teach them how to make meaning of these books so that they can grow and learn and one day hopefully change themselves and the world.”