As Ascension Via Christi’s Child Development Center enters into its fourth decade of childcare, one thing has remained the same: Its staff’s dedication to children.
Pam Buxton, who has served infants, 1-year-olds and kindergarteners at the CDC for the past 33 years, epitomizes that dedication.
On Friday, Jan. 15, she will take on a new role – that of a retiree.
“There are so many memories from all the years I have worked here,” says Buxton. “The lasting friendships with other staff and the stories we share about our classes is a big one.”
When the CDC opened in July 1980, its classrooms encompassed one floor of a building immediately north of Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. It was licensed at that time to care for up to 100 children. Since then, it has grown to include the building’s second floor, has a full kitchen and is licensed for up to 320 children from newborn to age 12.
“I have learned to look at each day as a new beginning,” says Buxton. “I just keep positive and smile, it always brightens someone's day. Even with masks on I try to make the smile show in my eyes and somehow the children smile back!”
One her favorite memories, and of her colleagues, are of the walking field trips to downtown Wichita in the early years of the summer recreation program.
“One time we got caught in such a bad storm that St. Francis hospital security had to come rescue us,” says Terri Wittrig, who along with Jane Swindle, have worked alongside Buxton since the CDC opened. “It just goes to show how a ‘bad’ time with a good attitude and good friends can become a cherished memory.”
Buxton says her favorite part of the day is welcoming children to her classroom.
“I hope that the children in my care will develop a love for learning, especially through books and all the amazing things stories can bring to you,” says Buxton, an avid reader and seamstress.
When the CDC began using iPads in classrooms, she created hand-sewn totes for her coworkers to carry them in.
As her retirement approaches, she has begun donating her personal classroom supplies to other teachers at the center.
It is that type of dedication to the kids, her coworkers and the CDC that makes her so special, says Wittrig, a sentiment echoed by Swindle.
“She’s nurturing, helpful and dedicated and always plays a big part in our children’s families,” says Swindle.
Erica Rubin, the CDC’s director, says Buxton always makes it a point to ensure that every family feels welcome.
“Because of the great relationships Pam has built over the years, she has been one of our most requested teachers,” says Rubin, adding that Buxton once had a classroom assistant who was in her class as a child.
For Buxton, it has been an incredible journey, one that she feels blessed to have made her life’s work.
“I have worked with many different age groups and enjoyed them all,” she says. “Thanks to all the parents who have let me be a part of their child’s life. It's been the best!”