Child Center Director retires


COMMUNITY PROFILE: Veronica MacKenney steps down after pioneering programs aimed at Spanish speakers.

She sits straight and confident behind her desk surrounded by pictures of her grandchildren. Veronica MacKenney brings out weathered newspaper clips from a folder. “These are a few that have been written about my work,” she said.

For the past 34 years, Veronica has planned her daily life around the needs of parents, students and workers at the Early Childhood Education Center. “I did my job. Now it is time for me to pass on the torch,” she says.

In 1978, MacKenney, a native of Chile, learned English at the age of 29 and was hired as an assistant teacher. Soon after completing a bachelor’s degree in education she was promoted to a master teacher and later became director of the ECEC at Santa Ana College. Now she is days away from her retirement.

During her time at the center, she created a program aimed at helping Spanish speakers develop and run their own home-based childcare business.

The goal was to help those who had ability but not the English language skills. She translated the curriculum from English to Spanish to break language barriers and help others reach their dreams.

MacKenney, who wants to focus on gardening among other things after retirement, has already seen flowers bloom from the seeds she has planted throughout her career. During one district child development-training program, she observed the crowd and noticed that the majority of the staff had either been parents of children in the childcare program or were her former students.

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Aside from being a bilingual teacher, MacKenney has been a mentor and a friend to many and has offered an ear for those who needed someone to listen to them.

“They say I am a person who guided them to accomplish,” she says of her former students. “I’m a little tough at times,” she added.

Associate Director of ECEC Zeferina Gonzalez says she will remember Veronica as a friendly, professional person who will be missed, and whose legacy will continue.

Before arriving in California, Veronica had earned a nursing degree and worked for an airline in Chile, but did not find her ground until her career in childcare took off.

“If you’re going to do something you have to have heart,” she says. Now, MacKenney wants to share her heart and passion with her family.

“I have a husband, and he had a heart attack not too long ago,” she says with tears filling her eyes. “I want to enjoy life with him.”

After retirement MacKenney wants to be more spontaneous and free. “I want to do what I want to do at the moment without having a plan in mind. I have planned my entire life. Now it’s my time.”

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