Conan McKay, says he is known on campus as “the Male Child Development instructor.” He says his passion is encouraging men to get involved in early childhood education and fatherhood: trying to get more fathers involved in their children's lives. “When the father pulls back,” he says, “everyone loses.” He says that while some men don't know how to become actively involved with their children, he notices a trend toward more men taking an active role right from birth.
McKay practices what he preaches. The father of three enjoys taking his kids to sporting events, to local parks and beaches, and traveling to far off places, but he also enjoys just hanging out at home with his wife and family.
Born and raised in the L.A. Area, McKay's mother taught child development at Cal State Bakersfield, and his father taught theatre at East Los Angeles Community College. But he says it was John Merriam, his mentor at Whittier College, whose passion for teaching child development encouraged him to choose that field for his own. McKay taught 3rd grade for two years in Los Angeles after finishing college, then spent a “wonderful year” teaching conversational English in Japan. After his return to the U.S.A., he taught 6th grade in Los Angeles, then enrolled in graduate school at Cal State Bakersfield, where he received his M.A. degree in multi-cultural education. He sighs as he admits he put “lots of miles on my car” teaching child development classes part-time at every community college in the Los Angeles area. Since full-time job prospects remained bleak, McKay taught online for two years while he trained for and became a California State Park Ranger stationed at Oceano Dunes near Pismo Beach. While it was a good life, McKay realized that his true calling was in child development, so he continued to “blanket the state” with job applications, and was eventually hired at Mendocino College in 2009.
McKay's favorite part of his job as the only full-time faculty member in the Child Development Program is “sharing the joy and love of child development (CDV) with students.” He loves to “bring along dedicated professionals to the field, and to give them the tools to be successful in the classroom.” He says the most challenging part of his job is to understand the history of CDV at Mendocino College by getting to know the community, so that if he changes something, he can be sure it falls within the needs of the community.
McKay describes his teaching style as “laid back, with a demand for excellence within the field.” “We must be worthy of parents' trust,” he says, “because they hand over their most precious gifts, their children, to us every day.” He sees it as his role to be sure child development is a respectable field with high quality teachers who help bring up healthy, happy children.
McKay says that he and his family “love it here!” His son attends Ukiah High School, his elder daughter attends Eagle Peak middle school, and his “little one” attends the Child Development Lab at Mendocino College. His wife teaches child development courses part-time. McKay will complete his second year teaching at Mendocino College during the Spring 2011 semester.