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Director returns home

New Colvill director Min MartinOakes greets the students as they arrive Friday. (Republican Eagle photo by John Russett)

For Min MartinOakes, taking over as the director of Colvill Family Center is like coming home.

"Red Wing really is home. So when I had the opportunity to move into this position, because my heart is really in early childhood (education), so being able to oversee all the early childhood programs in my community it was like, 'Why wouldn't I want to end my career doing that?'" MartinOakes said.

This might be her last job, she said, with a little hesitation.

"But one never really knows," she added.

MartinOakes has been a teacher for many years and started in the district in 1990 as an early childhood special education teacher. She worked in Red Wing until 2010 when she took a position in the Austin, Minn., school district in special education administration.

In Austin she oversaw all the special education programming from birth through the end of kindergarten.

MartinOakes came back to Red Wing last year and taught as a kindergarten teacher at Sunnyside Elementary.

One of the main reasons for MartinOakes being so passionate about early childhood education is she enjoys her work, she said.

"I've always just loved hanging out with little kids. Who doesn't love that? How can you not have fun?" MartinOakes said.

Beyond being fun, however, there is research that says for every dollar a community invests in early childhood development it gets $17 back on that investment through children who don't enter special education later, and children who complete their education and then go on to post-secondary education, enter the workforce and pay taxes, she said.

"It makes a difference, and I can't do anything that doesn't make a difference. I just can't," MartinOakes said.

MartinOakes said she is proud of Colvill and proud of Red Wing for having a place like Colvill and making early childhood development a priority.

Colvill is the largest of the Red Wing preschools and currently serves about 40 percent of the children enrolled in preschools in Red Wing.

Even with Colvill being the biggest of the Red Wing preschools, MartinOakes said one problem she has encountered is not having enough space.

All of the 4-year-old programs are full with waiting lists.

"I want to see our programs continue to expand. Space can certainly be a barrier to that; I don't like to let it be a barrier to that," she said. "So we have to be really smart to utilize the space that we have."

Colvill has 180 to 200 kids enrolled currently, which does not include the Head Start program, MartinOakes said, with 31 total staff members.

MartinOakes said she hopes to get more space because she never likes to turn anyone away.

"The energy in this building is pretty amazing," she said. "I just want everybody in the community to know about this place and be able to access it."

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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