Spevak: Penney, a champion of children, to retire

By John SpevakMay 16, 2013 

Caring for children is one of the most important responsibilities individuals and communities have.

Children are our future and our hope. But they require much nurturing and encouragement, especially in their formative years. A child's entire life is profoundly influenced by experiences encountered in the first five years.

Los Banos has been blessed to have a person who has devoted her career and life to youngsters. For more than 20 years, Barbara Penney has taught and coordinated the child development program at the Los Banos Campus of Merced, working with children between 2 and 5. At the end of this semester, Barbara will be retiring.

Barbara was the first full-time CTE (career and technical education) instructor at the Los Banos Campus. When she joined the college, it was located on Mercey Springs Road and had its own child development center, which soon became affiliated with Head Start. The center also served as an up-to-date laboratory for the campus's child development courses.

Barbara made sure that excellence was the focus of the center and the program. She developed and taught courses that have enabled students to become not just good but extraordinary child development teachers and administrators. She also helped recruit and train other instructors and staff who shared her sense of excellence.

Barbara also coordinated with other child development programs and directors throughout the region, including Head Start programs in Merced and Stanislaus Counties, Migrant Head Start, the Merced County Office of Education, and many other public childhood development programs.

She has also educated many private child care providers in the community and region, showing them the best methods to educate young children.

As a result of her work, thousands of children over the past two decades have been able to learn and grow -- in mind, body and spirit -- and be well prepared for kindergarten. Barbara has received many thanks from the parents of these children.

During her time in Los Banos, Barbara has demonstrated ingenuity in the face of challenge. When tight budgets didn't allow for a child development center on the new college campus, Barbara still continued a strong program, using other centers in the community to enable her students to fulfill their laboratory requirements.

What has helped make Barbara so effective is her "special touch" -- gentle but firm. Her voice is soft and her demeanor is genial, but she has a strong character and intense passion for excellence in child development.

Barbara is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement. Her presence will continue in every person and center in Los Banos and surrounding communities that has felt her special touch.

On another note: Los Banos has lost three wonderful women in the last month, and the community feels that loss deeply.

Dorothy Mallonee was a very caring person -- friendly, funny, kind and loving. She had a good word and a smile for everyone. She had a special empathy for people who were ill, lonely or grieving. Dorothy was in so many ways the "heart" of her parish and her community, as well as her family.

Lori Brandt was a person of great courage. She valiantly battled cancer with determination, perseverance and a positive outlook. She was also devoted to her community. Lori served as a member of the Los Banos Parks and Recreation Commission, advocating for parks, green space and a high quality of life for everyone in the community.

Esther Amabile was the center and the hub of her family. She was intelligent, matriarchal, congenial and devoted. She accomplished much, as a businesswoman and entrepreneur, but her greatest accomplishment was the family she cared for and nurtured. Her love extended to everyone -- children, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dorothy, Lori and Esther will all be missed. Their spirit will live in everyone who was blessed to have known them.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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