By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN - There is a new face at the Dassel-Cokato Early Childhood Family Education Center (ECFE) with Irene Schwartz as coordinator.
Schwartz, who has worked primarily in early childhood and family education for 25 years, is filling the seat of Rebecca Warpula.
Warpula moved on to a position at Augustana Homes in Litchfield after nine years in the district. Her last day was Nov. 19.
“Though [Rebecca] will be missed, we look forward to the new leadership that Irene Schwartz will provide to our Early Childhood Programs,” said Perry Thinesen, Community Education and activities director.
Schwartz’s first official day was Jan. 5.
Schwartz came from the Hutchinson early childhood program and prior to that, she worked with the Litchfield program.
“I love being in the business of encouraging parents and getting children off to a good start,” Schwartz said.
In the past, Schwartz also worked as a volunteer facilitating parent groups in the Meeker County jail.
This was not only eye- opening for Schwartz, but she also came out feeling very blessed, she said.
Part of the reason Schwartz enjoys working in this area is because she knows these programs make a difference in a child’s life.
Aside from working with the children and their families, Schwartz is also excited to be working in the district.
“It’s wonderful being a part of a district that strongly supports its students and recognizes the importance of early childhood programs,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz is looking forward to getting acquainted with the families and becoming a part of the education community.
Her first few days on the job, Schwartz could see she was “surrounded by competent, committed people who do their job well,” she said.
“That makes my job so much easier . . . and better,” she said.
As far as any visions she may have for the future, Schwartz said she is just concentrating on the here-and-now.
“There’s a lot to learn,” she said.
Schwartz and her family live south of Litchfield. Some may know her husband, Dave, who is a soybean product manager for Gold Country Seed, south of Dassel. Together, they have three grown children, Emily, 27; Andrew, 25; and Ben, 21.
In her free time, Irene enjoys working in her flower garden, reading, being a long-time hospice volunteer, cooking, and recreational sewing.