Ms. Pam retires after 45 years with Toddle Town Learning Center.

EAST ALTON - In the brick building on Shamrock Avenue that once housed local elementary students, center director Pam Schwarberg gazes through her large glass office window at a group of preschool children playing in the large activity center of Toddle Towne Learning Center’s East Alton location.

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“Watching the boys and girls having fun is the best part of my day,” she shared. “We have rotating stations like an auto repair shop or post office to spark their imagination. Their little minds are like sponges, and I love seeing them learn while they play.”

Since 1977, Ms. Pam has taught children and even grandchildren of former students. She started her career at Toddle Towne as a student herself as a junior at East Alton Wood River High School. She didn’t realize her future was unfolding when her favorite teacher suggested she join a new vocational program that placed high school students at local preschools for on-the-job experience.

“I was there just a few weeks when I fell in love with Ms. Peggy and her teaching style,“ Pam said.

Peggy Funkhouser, a co-owner of Toddle Towne and who served as the executive director from 1987 - 2008, wrote the curriculum herself with a focus on developing young children from tip to toe. Taking learning beyond ABCs, colors, and shapes, the teachers at Toddle Towne follow monthly themes like Community Helpers, Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales, and My Marvelous Body. Daily lesson plans incorporate each theme into skill goals. The nursery rhyme Jack Sprat is an opportunity to discuss nutrition. Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill start a conversation about safety. And each year, local firefighters, several of whom went to Toddle Towne themselves, are invited to talk with the children about Jack-be-Nimble's lack of fire awareness.

Susan Berry, the current executive director (and former Toddle Towne student), says Ms. Pam is a mainstay in the community and seems to know everyone.

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She declared, “Ms. Pam has impacted the lives of thousands of children. She frequently comes in and says you will never guess who said hi to me at the store yesterday!”

With a love of singing, Ms. Pam is credited with Toddle Towne’s tradition of caroling—not just during the traditional holiday season. Ms. Pam and her staff lead enthusiastic throngs of tiny singers through the entire neighborhood going to city hall, police station, fire station, mayor's office, and several local businesses to belt out jingles during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day. Her annual tradition of knocking over chairs and leaving sprinkles of gold glitter has transformed St Patrick's Day into a highly anticipated and beloved holiday for all Toddle Towne families.

Times have changed over the years. Ms. Pam marvels at the diversity of Toddle Towne’s families. She is proud of how she and her teachers have evolved the curriculum to be more inclusive. Christmas has progressed to a robust celebration of all types of families and holiday traditions, including Hannukah and Kwanza. Conversations about the history of Christopher Columbus and Thanksgiving have expanded to include Native Americans and their indigenous culture and traditions. A relatively new theme, The Dog Days of Summer, captures the children's love of animals and instills a sense of compassion as they bake dog biscuits and collect blankets to donate to a local shelter.

As Ms. Pam prepares to retire and hand the mantle of center director to Ms. Samantha this December, she says she will miss the camaraderie of her extended family of teachers.

“Toddle Towne has been an amazing place to work and grow. I am grateful for my journey from high school intern to center director.”

Pam and her husband, Joe, plan to slow down in this next chapter with a potential move to be closer to their twin boys, who have both gone into law enforcement in Missouri.

Our board of directors and entire teaching staff join all our families throughout the years in thanking Ms. Pam for her dedication and devotion to the hearts and minds of Toddle Towne’s children.

Read More:

Jul 26, 2020 | RiverBend Growth Association Names Toddle Towne Learning Center As Small Business Of The Month

Jan 15, 2015 | Riverbend Growth Association names Toddle Towne Learning Center as Small Business of the Month

Mar 18, 2015 | Toddle Towne E Alton Leaning Center receives Excelerate Illinois Silver Circle of Quality designation

Aug 29, 2013 | Local Children Explore Environmental Sciences with NGRREC

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RBGA Small Business of the Month January 2015: Toddle Towne

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