By Tim Ashley
WARSAW — Dani Barkey candidly admits “I have a hole in my heart” and misses being a teacher in a classroom. But she still has an impact on students, just in a different way.
As an assistant superintendent for Warsaw Community Schools with a primary focus on the middle schools and high school, she impacts students in more of a behind-the-scenes way rather than one-on-one.
In her current role Barkey works a lot with the building principals on developing leadership skills, new teacher recruitment and training, professional development of teachers and the Title I and Title III federal programs. Title I helps at-risk students and Title III helps those who speak languages other than English.
A current project she is working on involves helping to bridge the gap for the dual language immersion students. Warsaw has a program where elementary school students learn half the day in English and half the day in Spanish. By the time they are in third grade, they should be able to speak Spanish fluently.
“They become fluent in a different language and the data shows their capability of success is increased,” she said.
Barkey grew up in North Manchester in a family of teachers or preachers “so it was going to be one or the other” when it came to making a career choice. A grandmother was an art teacher and Barkey loved art, so she decided to become an art teacher. After graduating from Manchester High School in 1997, she earned a college degree in art education in the same town at what was then Manchester College and graduated from there in 2001.
Beginning with the 2001-02 school year, she taught art at NorthWood High School in Nappanee. For the next 10 years she taught art at NorthWood and also directed school plays, coached sports and fulfilled other duties.
Then she made the decision to leave the classroom and transition to an administrative role. She noted “there is always a need for good leaders who really care about what’s best for kids,” and the impact on students can be greater, though not so much one-on-one as with a classroom teacher.
Barkey earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Ball State University and began the 2011-12 school year as an assistant principal and athletic director for Lakeview Middle School in Warsaw. She later became a grade level principal for Warsaw Community High School with the class of 2015.
Then she moved to assistant superintendent for the school district and was the chief accountability officer overseeing testing and state accountability systems. Prior to entering her current role, she earned a state superintendent specialist license in May 2019.
A challenge in the recruitment of new teachers is finding enough to fill open positions. “The shortage is really prevalent along the coasts,” where national trends typically start, she said. “It is becoming harder and harder to find new teachers,” she added, and what is essentially happening in Indiana is school districts are “stealing” teachers from each other.
Barkey strives to make sure teachers are well equipped and “provide ongoing support throughout the year.”
Fondly recalling her 10 years of teaching in the classroom at NorthWood, she admitted “it was really hard to leave the classroom” because she enjoyed teaching. And even now, she still relishes being able to fill in once a while for a teacher.
Dani is married to Ben Barkey, also an administrator and the principal of Madison Elementary in Warsaw. They were married in 2001.
Dani enjoys gardening, is an avid walker, noting she was a college athlete and is active with Camp Mack, where she originally met her husband. She also serves on the United Way board of directors and the Community Action Council.
Dani and Ben have a son, Dylan, a junior at WCHS; and daughter, Ali, who is a freshman at WCHS. The family attends Manchester Church of the Brethren.