When researching child care options, most parents seek safe, affordable, licensed facilities. However, maybe that list of qualifications should also include qualified, dedicated caregivers who have a passion for teaching children.
The four Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Child Development Centers – Wright Care, Wright Field North, Wright Field South and New Horizons – meet all of those criteria and more.
The Wright-Patterson AFB CDCs are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and certified by the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force.
Their mission is “to provide quality, affordable child care” for children, ages six weeks to 5 years, of active-duty military members and civilian employees.
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Wright-Patterson employs nearly 175 caregivers who oversee 656 children daily across all four centers.
Each CDC caregiver is responsible to attend regular training, oversee a classroom, create daily lesson plans and participate in activities with the children.
These caregivers devote themselves to their jobs, and they care for each individual child who enters their classroom. Several CDC caregivers have worked on base for nearly 20 years, proving the high level of dedication they show for their work and the love they have for children.
“I believe the level of care our caregivers provide our families and their children is unparalleled,” said Jen Clare, assistant director of Wright Field South CDC. “One can see how much our staff love their career choice by the longevity, education level and commitment they each present.”
These long-term caregivers have dedicated years of their lives to ensuring children on Wright-Patt are well-cared for and developing a healthy lifestyle. Over the years, they have organized numerous group activities, lessons and meals for their classrooms.
“Their dedication shines through in all areas of their work through the trainings they request, pride put forth in their lesson plans and excitement they have when a child in their care reaches or exceeds a milestone,” said Clare.
A common phrase among the caregivers is “every day is different.” CDC caregivers are required to develop different lesson plans every day to encourage the children’s development in all areas. Although they keep a routine schedule, caregivers’ lesson plans may change.
Michelle Gaddis, toddler teacher for Wright Field South CDC, has been a caregiver for 17 years, prior to which she ran her own home daycare for 11 years.
“We are open to doing what the children want,” said Gaddis. “You might have something planned out, but you might see that children are more energetic than what you have planned. So you have to be flexible.”
Wright-Patt’s CDC caregivers are instrumental in shaping the minds of the children they teach. They focus on developing gross motor skills, structured learning and social and emotional skills.
“We are able to teach them through play every skill they will need to prepare them for school,” said Dodi Adamson, Wright Care preschool teacher for 19 years. “We take part in laying the fundamental groundwork for the rest of their lives. By having the opportunity to take part in that is so humbling.”
Maintaining a family atmosphere is crucial to encouraging the social and emotional skills of each child. The children do a large variety of activities together, and they eat every meal in family-style around a table.
The caregivers also bond with the parents of the children in their classroom. They not only have parent-teacher meetings and parent involvement days, but many caregivers do activities with families outside of the CDC. “It’s like one big family,” noted Gaddis.
The CDC caregivers are quick to connect with each child in their classroom, and many of the long-term caregivers still possess memories from years past.
“They might not remember me, but it’s just that little bit that I helped,” said Lisa Kohlbacher, pre-toddler teacher for 24 years. “It’s like your second family.”
Any one of the many Wright-Patt CDC caregivers would agree with Kohlbacher. Each family who comes through the doors of a CDC on base should rest assured, knowing that they are receiving high quality care from a skilled and devoted staff.