By LAURIE FISHER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Marsha Fader always asks, "What is best for the child?"
Throughout her 38-year career, the early-childhood educator knew the answer. She also discovered that what benefits the child resonates to teachers, family and the community.
This fall, Fader will retire as director of early-childhood activities at the Jewish Community Center in Youngstown. Although her last workday will be in October when she celebrates her 65th birthday, Fader delivered her final pep talk June 1 to graduating JCC preschoolers.
She is serving as a consultant to ease the transition for a new, as yet unidentified director.
"Children make me so happy," Fader said recently from her office which overflows with children's books and drawings.
"It doesn't matter whatever happens in your life, I tell my staff. Everybody in this world has problems. Nobody lives a perfect life. But when you are around these children, you can't think about anything else. They are demanding in their needs and they need explanations. They need respect and attention.
"You have to end up happy, even if you don't start your day that way. Children are funny, and joyful and so open. The simplest little thing can turn into something wonderful," she said explaining how a thundershower on the last day of school didn't dampen the students' spirits during an impromptu indoor picnic.
A Youngstown native, Fader first worked at JCC when she was 15. After college she taught at area public schools. She was introduced to the JCC preschool when her children enrolled.
Found her niche: Like many parents, Fader began to volunteer at the preschool. Soon after, the tug of young children and classroom developed into a full-time volunteer job.
"I was doing everything," she recalled. "I found I loved being with children this age."
The director, impressed with Fader's rapport with children, offered her a job teaching half-day classes. However, when her youngest child attended the school, she decided to resign her position.
"I wanted my youngest son to have the advantages the other children had of separating from the family and encouraging independent growth."
When her son started first grade at Liberty schools, Fader returned as director of the preschool.
Fader's responsibilities expanded with the addition of pre-school enrichment classes. When the staff observed the need for extended day-care services, she attended a California conference about intergenerational day care.
In 1987, Aleph Bet day care opened at Heritage Manor Jewish Home for the Aged located next to the Jewish Community Center.
"It is a perfect setting for the children, the home residents and even staff members," she said.
Fader observed that throughout her career, children have become more sophisticated. She attributed this to exposure to television and computers as well as each child's life experiences.
"In a way it makes me really sad. However, if you are really skillful, you can turn that around. We let the children tell their classmates about their experiences."
In addition, she said that day care has become a way of life for many families. "More children are exposed to early-childhood learning. They learn to be very independent and self-sufficient at a much younger age. They have better social skills. But I'm not sure of what they miss, for example not being able to entertain themselves.
"Sometimes children just need a quiet space and need to be at home, not in a group setting. However, not everybody has that luxury, & quot; she said.
Award winner: Last month, Fader received the Lifetime Achievement award from Tru-Mah-Col, the local affiliate chapter of the national Association for the Education of Young Children.
Fader helped found the professional development chapter and organized the community wide "Jump for Joy" events for young children and their families.
"We are seriously going to miss Marsha not just because of the impact of the Jewish Community Center but raising the professional level of the whole Youngstown-Warren area. We don't find people like Marsha anymore," said Susan Sunderlin, director of infant and toddler services at the JCC.
Fader and her husband, Mel, an oral surgeon, plan to divide their retirement time between Florida and Youngstown.
"My family can't believe I won't be involved with children," she said, admitting she already has plans to substitute-teach and volunteer.
Her longevity in the job has its own rewards, she said, noting she sees former students everywhere.
As she scanned last year's roster, Fader could name nearly a dozen second generation of students.
"That's one advantage that the next person probably won't have. I knew these parents; I had them as students. ... I find this extremely helpful to the teachers when they describe a situation or child. I am intertwined in the community," she said.
When Fader went to deliver her final goodbye to the youngsters starting kindergarten this fall, one little girl approached her.
"The student was reassuring me," Fader said with a laugh. "The child said 'We are going to come back and say "hi" to you, Mrs. Fader. Don't be sad; we love you.'"