Diana Barnett Loves Kids, Country Music, and Captain America
While Diana Barnett recently marked her fifth year as director of Dutilh’s highly regarded preschool, her relationship with Dutilh Church goes back twice that long.
Barnett was born and raised in Clarion, Pennsylvania. Barnett and her husband, Garrick, have two sons: Dalton (16), a sophomore at Seneca Valley High School, and Ethan (13), a seventh grader at Ryan Gloyer Middle School. The Barnett family moved to Cranberry Township in 2009, and that’s when Barnett first encountered Dutilh Church.
“We had been attending a Methodist church before and wanted to find another Methodist church when we moved,” Barnett explained. “We came to the contemporary worship service here at Dutilh, and everything just seemed to fit—the people, the music, and they had a thriving children’s program.”
As a mom of two young boys and an educator, the children’s program was particularly important to Barnett. Prior to her move, Barnett taught first grade at St. Ursula’s Catholic School in Allison Park for eight years. Though she took a break to stay home with her own children, she quickly became involved at Dutilh’s preschool when her youngest son was enrolled there.
“Ethan went to four-year-old class and Pre-K at Dutilh Preschool,” Barnett said. “I volunteered helping out children with special needs, and I subbed as a teacher once in a while.” After that, Barnett worked part-time at the preschool as a teacher’s aide. In 2014, she took the helm as director. That career path is not unusual for Dutilh Preschool, Barnett said.
“Most of our teachers started here when their kids were part of the preschool. They subbed, and then they stayed,” Barnett explained.
One of the best parts of Barnett’s job is getting to know the students and their families. “I love being able to greet the kids and say goodbye to them at the doors every morning,” Barnett said. “Anytime we can have the families involved—with things like our Christmas show, Doughnuts with Dad, the Mother’s Day Tea, or our end-of-year and graduation shows—it’s great.”
Just as Dutilh Church felt like the right fit for Barnett’s family, leading the preschool seems like the natural fulfillment of Barnett’s lifelong affection for children. “I’ve always felt drawn to working with kids,” Barnett said. In high school, she babysat and served as a tutor for younger children. When she entered college, the decision to major in education was an easy one. She studied early childhood and elementary education at Clarion University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. Barnett also holds a master’s degree in reading from Duquesne University.
With all her pedagogical training and experience in the complexities of early childhood development, Barnett’s response to a question about her favorite part about working in education is remarkably simple: “The kids. I love the kids,” she said.
Barnett’s joy in her students is evident to anyone who has spent time at the preschool. Outside of leading the preschool, Barnett is a bit of a foodie. She enjoys trying new foods and has been known to make her own mozzarella cheese. She also loves country music and often attends live concerts with her family. Thanks to her boys, Barnett spends a fair amount of her free time cheering for Seneca Valley sports teams and watching Marvel movies. “They got me hooked!” she laughed.
Barnett’s leadership is a significant reason Dutilh Preschool is thriving, and she looks forward to welcoming many more generations of preschoolers from around the community. For more information, check out www.dutilhumc.org/preschool.