by Ryan Labadens, NCBC Public Affairs
One belief that Pamela Carlisle has held is that everyone has a calling in life that motivates them, whether it’s to serve in the military, ministry, charity, or whatever other profession or capacity that may be. For Carlisle, one calling that motivated her was teaching and serving, not only the children of military service members, but the childcare workers who teach those children so that they can get a head start on the lessons they learn both in school and in life.
For almost a decade, Carlisle has served as the Child Development Center (CDC) director with Child and Youth Programs (CYP) oversight onboard the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, a position from which she is scheduled to retire at the end of December 2021.
Carlisle was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, where her father already happened to be stationed during his time in the active-duty Air Force at Eielson Air Force Base. She had her first birthday on the long road trip from Alaska to Collins, Mississippi, after her father finished his time in the military. Her parents were from Collins originally, and they decided to move back home so they could be closer to family and her father could find work after separating from the military. He secured a civilian position at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, as an electronics instructor, which is when Carlisle and her family finally moved down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Carlisle started developing her childcare skills at the very early age of two-years old, since she happened to be the oldest child of seven siblings.
“This made me an automatic caregiver,” said Carlisle. “All my life I’ve changed diapers, practically from day one. My first sibling was born when I was 18-months old, and I was always told, ‘Now you’ve got to set the example. You’ve got to help Mama take care [of your brothers and sisters].’ That was my part-time job, helping take care of my siblings.”
Carlisle grew up on the Gulf Coast and married her high school sweetheart, Robert “Bubba” Carlisle, in 1980. The beginning of her career path didn’t start with childcare, however. She initially studied financial assistance at Phillips Junior College and started working in banking at the Keesler Federal Credit Union and then at Community Bank. She eventually was recruited to a position in a training role at Wal-Mart Supercenter in D’Iberville, Mississippi, where she worked as the training coordinator.
“I was always teaching somebody something all of my life,” said Carlisle, who noted that for many of the positions she held over the years for other jobs, she filled a lot of training roles. “That’s kind of what I gravitate to.”
When asked what she enjoys most about the training and teaching positions she’s held over the years, Carlisle said,” Seeing the light go on whenever you’re teaching somebody a concept, and seeing their ‘lack of understanding’ become ‘understanding’ – you can see their face light up as they go ‘I get it! I get it.’ That, and helping them succeed – pushing them forward and just saying to them ‘you can do this.’”
Knowing this about Carlisle, a friend of hers who worked at the Gulfport Navy base told her about a position that she said would be “right up her alley,” a training and curriculum specialist for the Child and Youth Programs. She applied and was accepted, and she started working onboard NCBC in February 2010.
For the training and curriculum position, her main responsibilities focused on training adults to teach and develop children. Her experience teaching and training over the years opened doors for her, and in 2016 she worked her way up into her current position as the CDC director with CYP oversight. This position includes overseeing the Youth Center and the Teen Center here in addition to directing the CDC onboard the Seabee base, as well as the CDC at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
“We are so much more than a babysitter service here. We actually develop children using a creative curriculum and then record their progress in the teaching strategies software, and we also use the Child and Youth Management Systems to help track and develop the staff’s training,” said Carlisle, noting that at the CDC the staff members teach children the alphabet, their numbers, colors, writing, and recognizing certain sight word in English, Spanish and other languages to promote cultural diversity.
She then mentioned the overall goal for the way they teach the children at the CDC.
“It’s school prep. We prepare them for that next step [so they can go into elementary school], and we hear from their teachers and their parents… that their child is just doing phenomenal, and they were ready. That’s the reward for me,” said Carlisle, mentioning how much of a joy it was to hear when the children her staff helped teach are excelling in school. “Our kids here are just the greatest – they’re delightful.”
Carlisle also noted how much she enjoyed the family atmosphere of working at the CDC over the years, and how that same family feel has touched her on a personal level. Carlisle and her husband were married 33 years before his passing in 2013. She had already been working at the CDC for a few years at that point, and she credits the caring of the CDC, CYP and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) staff with helping her to pull through.
“I was here through that, and I’ll tell you, this staff – this family of mine – really, really supported me through a very tough time,” said Carlisle. “And we’ve all had losses, and joys and sorrows, and successes and failures, and we’ve all been able to share them – and it’s just been great, the family here.”
Carlisle said that after she retires she is looking forward to spending more time with her family outside the fence line of NCBC – her two sons, five grandchildren, and her other retired siblings so they can help care for their mother and father, who both still live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She also is hoping to become more involved with another calling she believes she has as the worship leader in the local church she attends, Cornerstone Community Church. She and other congregation members are working toward starting a ministry program to help the homeless.
Carlisle did say that she will miss the people she has come to call family at the Child Development Center onboard the Navy base, and miss seeing the children there develop and grow.
“I will miss everyone greatly, these people I’ve come to call family… but I’m looking forward spending more time with my family, devoting time to ministry, and moving forward to the next step in my life,” said Carlisle.