Entry-level to director: Presidio of Monterey child care directors detail career paths

By Winifred BrownNovember 18, 2021

Traci Gibson, left, director of the Monterey Road Child Development Center, and Dorrie Coman, director of the Porter Youth Center, pose for a photo on the playground at the Porter Youth Center, Ord Military Community, Calif., Nov. 16.
Traci Gibson, left, director of the Monterey Road Child Development Center, and Dorrie Coman, director of the Porter Youth Center, pose for a photo on the playground at the Porter Youth Center, Ord Military Community, Calif., Nov. 16. (Photo Credit: Winifred Brown) VIEW ORIGINAL

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Nov. 18, 2021) – The directors of the Presidio of Monterey’s two child care facilities are prime examples of the career mobility available in the Army Child and Youth Services child care profession.

Traci Gibson, director of the Monterey Road Child Development Center, and Dorrie Coman, director of the Porter Youth Center, both started as entry-level Child and Youth Program Assistants and worked their way up to facility director positions.

As U.S. Army Garrison PoM seeks to hire more child care providers, it is important applicants know there are opportunities available for those looking to move up in a long-term career. At the same time, directors recognize not everyone wants to move into management, and that is fine too.

Gibson said she still enjoys working with children, but she knew it was time to consider a management position when she started feeling restless in the role of full-time child care provider. She recommends other child care providers pay attention to that feeling.

There are different areas of work where employees are not always with the children, Gibson said. After learning how to take care of children in the rooms, some may want to diversify their experience by overseeing operations and making improvements from managerial positions.

Gibson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and completed 24 college credits in early childhood education, said she started working in child care because it allowed her to work and be near her children at the same time.

With the military, Gibson began as an entry-level child care provider for the Naval Postgraduate School’s child care center at La Mesa Village in 2009 and became acting director of the Navy’s youth center in 2012. She then moved and served as a Marine Corps youth center director in Quantico, Virginia. After moving back to Monterey in 2014, she worked as the Family Child Care and outreach director and then began working in her present position in 2019.

Coman, meanwhile, came to Monterey in 2005 at the age of 18 to attend California State University, Monterey Bay, and started working at the Porter Youth Center while she was a student. The center’s hours allowed her to attend classes in the morning and work in the afternoon when the school-aged children were out of school.

“I just enjoyed the team so much here, and the work and the mission, that when I graduated from college I knew I wanted to stay in the organization,” said Coman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with a pathway in teaching at CSUMB.

When it became difficult to progress in her career locally, Coman took advantage of an opportunity to work with Army Child and Youth Services at Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, a small Army base in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I worked as a manager there in a couple of different roles, and then my dream job was always to come back to Porter and be the director here,” Coman said.

So when a job opportunity as the CYS outreach director opened in Monterey, Coman applied and got the job. Then the director position at the Porter Youth Center opened, and she has been in the position now for more than seven years.

For those who would like to take on more responsibility or diversify their skillset, Coman said she definitely recommends moving to another facility to gain experience.

Coman and Gibson said that while child care providers, themselves included, often refer to their jobs as “playing with children,” there is a lot more to the profession.

Coman, for example, said, “It’s rewarding. There’s a great sense of community. You get to come and play. That’s your work, right? Although it’s a lot harder than that, of course.”

Gibson said, “We say that we’re playing with kids all day because they learn through play and we learn through playing with them, but it is a very difficult job. It requires a lot of patience and love and it’s not for everyone.”

For the right people, however, it can be a rewarding career, Gibson said.

“This is a professional career,” Gibson said. “This is not babysitting, and it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes a dedicated, quality person.”

With all the training and background checks, the government vets those who work in child care carefully, Gibson said.

Similarly, Coman said child care is one of the most rewarding jobs there is when it comes to guiding young people, and she particularly enjoys working with the wide range of ages of the children and youths at the Porter Youth Center.

Coman and Gibson said there are various levels of responsibility within the Army CYS child care profession and they outlined the opportunities.

In a nutshell, the next step after CYPA is that of becoming a lead CYPA in a child care room such as an infant, toddler or preschool room. These positions are not supervisory, but involve greater responsibility and can help lead to a supervisory position. Another position in this vein is that of program associate. They help oversee programs such as the technology and homework programs, as well as the Strong Beginnings kindergarten preparation program.

Next, supervisory program specialists oversee the performance of staff and coach others on their jobs. From there, employees can become an assistant director, followed by becoming director of a child care center, director of the Youth Sports and Fitness Program, or become the CYS outreach director, who oversees registration, enrollment and the Family Child Care program. After that, a director could look at becoming the head of CYS.

Coman said it is also important for people to know that child care facilities need more than child care providers to operate.

For example, facilities hire cooks, information technology professionals and maintenance staff, Coman said.

Those interested in entry-level CYPA positions can apply using the USAjobs.gov website, searching for “Child and Youth Program Assistant” at the Presidio of Monterey. Applicants must be at least 18 years old or the 17-year-old dependent of a service member or Department of Defense civilian employee and have a high school diploma or GED.

The job pays between $16.50 and $23.95 an hour, provides extensive paid training, and nearly assures future employment at Army installations throughout the world, among other benefits.

For more information, call Claire Tschida, human resources officer for PoM non-appropriated fund jobs, at (831) 242-6119.