Birthday girls and boys usually at least have some sneaking suspicion that a surprise party may be afoot.
Dana Davin, who teaches preschool in Mt. Lebanon, had no such inkling prior to the revelation that she’d been selected as a national winner of the KinderCare Education Legacy Award.
“They had me read a story to my class, and they miked me up and told me they wanted some sound bites to go along with taping for KinderCare,” Davin recalled.
As she wrapped up the story, special guest Elanna Yalow, KinderCare Education’s chief academic officer, started speaking about the value of teachers.
“You could see on my face in the video I still don’t know what’s going on,” Davin said. “And then she started talking about the particulars of the award, and we’re all very familiar with the Legacy Award here. It’s something we strive for. So it just started to click, and I was very floored.”
A Green Tree resident and Keystone Oaks High School graduate, Davin has been teaching preschool for five years, three at KinderCare of Mt. Lebanon. She earned her degree in elementary education from Robert Morris University.
“It wasn’t my original path,” she said about preschool. “But I took a job at a different care facility, and after I worked there for a little while, I realized I kind of liked the age group. It was a lot of fun.
She continues work primarily with 3- and 4-year-olds at KinderCare.
“They’re at that stage where we’re just starting to be able to really do some excellent learning,” Davin said. “It’s less about our bodies and it’s more about our minds. We’re starting to learn about how to conduct ourselves the right way, how to conduct ourselves in a classroom, and some our kids can tell you what ‘camouflaging’ is.
“When they have that ‘a-ha!’ moment,” she emphasized, “that’s really a special part of the day.”
She is one of seven KinderCare teachers nationally to earn the award, which honors instructors for their commitment to creative teaching, inspiring curiosity among students, and setting the standard for excellence in education. It comes with a cash prize and all-expenses-paid trip to be recognized at KinderCare’s National Support Center in Portland, Ore.
“I really try to get to know every single child and family in my classroom, in a very intimate kind of way,” Davin said. “I want them to walk into the classroom in the morning and feel like they’re in their second home.
“That has helped me a lot,” she continued, “because the kids trust me and I trust them, and we bounce off each other and have great days. And then the families are willing to tell me things and feel comfort in leaving their children with me. I like to send pictures and emails every day, and at drop-off or pickup, tell them a really good story about what happened today. Or if I have to share some not-great news, they trust me to do that the right way, too.”