Hear about some of many speakers that will be at the 2017 Early Childhood Conference.

John Borrero: “At the National Center of Early Childhood Health and Wellness (NCECHW) we believe that school readiness begins with health. NCECHW disseminates resources and health messages for the early childhood education (ECE) community, their partners, and families. We use a research-informed, evidence-based approach when developing resources or providing training and technical assistance (T/TA) to promote health. Simultaneously, the NCECHW ensures that materials are practical for the ECE community. CHCC and FCC provide a unique opportunity to support health and wellness that NCECHW will be addressing.” John Borrero has over 25 years of experience working with children, families and the Head Start community. Currently, he works at NCECHW as the Director of Child Care Initiatives.

Tom Bradach: Every child and every family are different. The American Academy of Pediatrics understands that a child’s health and development begins where they live, learn, and play. A child’s unique needs should be considered in the context of their direct and indirect relationships with family, caregivers and their community. This includes the child, family, and community resilience and adaptability. As an early childhood professional who is in regular contact with a child and their microenvironment, it is crucial to understand not only the concepts related to Early Brain and Child Development but also understand how to apply a public health approach to build a child’s potential for a successful future. Tom Bradach is a project coordinator with the Child Development Initiatives at the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Carrie Brockway: We did this workshop last conference and almost 200 people attended. We need to build numeracy for young children with engaging hands-on activities. The games incorporate the use of easily found cards and dice and can be used to teach counting, recognizing numbers, greater than and less than, doubles, counting to 5, 10 and beyond, and early fact fluency strategies. Activities can be used in centers, whole class and with families. The session is active. Participants will get to use manipulatives throughout the workshop and experience all the suggested activities. Carrie is the Principal of Pecatonica Elementary a Title 1 school in rural Illinois. All of our teachers incorporate the use of games as a teaching strategy for developing early numeracy.

Nancy Bruski: “I have been working with young children, teachers, and parents for over thirty years and my mission has long been to support parents and teachers to be more emotionally sensitive to children. The search for the perfect consequence for misbehavior too often misses the point that children need help from adults to learn appropriate behaviors, and they rarely learn through punishment. When teachers re-examine the concept of fairness and see it as meaning that each child deserves to get his/her needs met, recognizing that children at times have varying and different needs allow them to make small exceptions to group norms in order to meet individual needs. I am committed to helping teachers be strategic in engaging children’s cooperation because in such settings children thrive.” Nancy is a longtime social worker.

Patrick Cerria: “Over the last thirteen years I’ve taught a wide range of populations. These include pre-school classrooms of typically developing children and self-contained schools of autistic and physically disabled students. I’ve also worked in urban inner-city schools as well as alternative schools for at-risk students with behavioral classifications. Data from the Center for Disease Control tells us that amongst American kids ages 3 to 17 there is a 1.1% rate of Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis – roughly 1 in every 68 children. The same data reports there is a 2.0% rate of depression; 3.0% rate anxiety; and 3.5% rate of behavioral problems. Movement and music are great tools to help teachers teach the developmentally diverse classrooms we now face. I am committed to helping teachers learn this.” I studied a method of teaching music called Dalcroze Eurhythmics at The Juilliard School in Manhattan and have used this training with a wide array of student populations.

Debrah Clark, Jessica-Christine Gunia: STEAM is all the rage, and infants and toddlers are noticeably left out of the strategies. Infant and toddler development is the most holistic time. They are drawn through natural inclination to utilize STEAM, but do not get the recognition for it. Empowering practitioners working with our youngest in engaging stakeholders in the conversation of natural STEAM further professionalizes the role infant/toddler practitioners have in society. Debrah Clark- 20 years ECE, 17 director, M.A., DePaul, speaker, Certified Family Life Educator, and Jessica-Christine Gunia- 20 years in ECE, B.S. Cal State Fullerton-Child/Adol. Dev.”

Meredith A. Craven: We are both passionate about the listening and spoken language approach to teaching children who are deaf. We provided daily services in a separate facility for these children. A major part of our job is to provide direct and consultative services to mainstreamed services in the greater Cincinnati area. We believe that no families should be limited by their disabilities and that every child should be given the opportunity to flourish. Meredith Craven, MED is a hearing impaired specialist and Erin Lipps, aud is a pediatric audiologist both specialize in intervention for children who are deaf/hard of hearing.

Sarah E. Dennis: Hart & Risley’s pioneering work, Meaningful Differences, which led to the coining of the phrase, the 30 million word gap, left such an impression on me. As a literacy scholar, I realized how many early childhood educators didn’t really realize how language is the FOUNDATION to later literacy development (reading and writing). I also realized how often early childhood educators were missing opportunities to help children’s language skills develop. Further research by Catherine Tamis-Lamonda, and Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002), had such practical implications for early childhood teacher’s (and families’) language with young children. I feel compelled to share, to help scaffold young children’s language development to help maximize their abilities and learning. Sarah E. Dennis, Ph.D., has provided professional development and coaching to prek-3rd grade teachers for over 15 years in NYC and Chicago.

Jane Fleming: The We Need Diverse Books movement has been critical in drawing attention to the need for “mirrors” and “windows” in our nation’s child care programs and classrooms – mirror books that reflect children’s lives and experiences, and window books that offer views of the broader world. Much of this discussion focuses on the potential for “mirrors” to help children feel included and connected in their classrooms, but this is only half the story. New research shows that having opportunities to draw on their background knowledge and experiences is a critical factor increasing young learners’ motivation, engagement, language productivity, and depth of comprehension. Dr. Jane Fleming is co-founder of Kids Like Us, a nonprofit organization focused on research, professional development, and advocacy around teaching with culturally relevant texts.

Ann Gadzikowski: “In my work developing STEM curricula for young children (science, technology, engineering & math) I’ve gained a deep appreciation for how eagerly children learn through block play, especially those STEM concepts related to engineering and physics. For example, constructing a tower of blocks requires a kinesthetic understanding of symmetry, function, gravity, and balance. In this workshop participants will learn how to facilitate and support block play in a preschool and kindergarten classroom to maximize learning in all the STEM subject areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). Our discussion, demonstrations and hands-on practice will help teachers add creativity and excitement to children’s early experiences with STEM concepts.” Ann Gadzikowski is Early Childhood Coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She is the author of books and articles on early childhood education.

Molly K. Gerrish: I am an early childhood professor, but I began as a Head Start teacher and home visitor. My first classroom was in a basement with no outdoor space and many of the students I worked with had no open space outside of school, many lived in shelters, housing projects, or were homeless. I had students who spoke several languages, many did not speak English. Communication was and remains a vital component of how children and families develop and interact. Communication among children, between children and adults, and within the classroom and home is vital and research illuminates the continued need to develop communication skills with children and the adults in their lives. My recent work into trauma-informed care highlights the need for varied communication in safe, yet meaningful ways. I am an early childhood professor. I am passionate about using play, communication, and respect in order to provide engaging experiences for children.”

Rachel Giannini: “With over 30 years of experience in formal and informal settings working with early learners, we have come to the realizations that the needs and rights of our youngest citizens are not taken into consideration when creating an environment. With the belief that the environment is the third teacher, we strive to create intentional and thoughtful spaces developmentally appropriate for infants and toddlers within a reality of an educator’s budget. We want to create learning environments that are delightful for both children and the important adults in their lives. “

Elizabeth A. Hebert: I served as an elementary school principal for 21 years and have a deep appreciation of the need for mentoring at all levels within the schools. Although we are more familiar with the concept of mentoring as applicable for those entering teaching and/or school leadership, I have found it to be effective at later career levels as well. I served as Principal of Crow Island School in Winnetka, IL for 21 years. I have written about and presented at numerous conferences on the topics of leadership and mentoring.

Joseph Holberg: As someone who grew up in a financially insecure household, I was always trying to help my family make ends meet. As I got older, I realized that not only do most Americans struggle with money issues, but they are discouraged from learning and talking about it. I’ve started Holberg Financial to help teach people how to become more financially secure and sustainable in a way that is approachable and comfortable, which is the antithesis of the financial industry at large in its current sales and pressure heavy way that intimidates and tricks people into buying things they don’t need. I love to teach people how to make sense of the crazy and confusing financial world, I read voraciously, and I like to keep life interesting by trying new things.

Sharron Krull: I hope to encourage children to get up off their seat and onto their feet! As an early childhood educator of over 45 years, with 10 years as an outdoor preschool teacher, I have advocated and shared with teachers what I have learned from the children themselves and the movement specialists (occupational therapists, physical therapists, brain scientists). Young children (ages 2 to 7) are innately programmed to move and it is during this time in their life that motor skills develop rapidly. There has never been a greater need than now to share the importance of movement and physical activity as so many children are being raised in sedentary screen media environments. I plan on presenting strategies and techniques that teachers can use inside or outdoors with limited space and equipment.

Nancy Maruyama, RN, BSN: My child died in childcare many years ago – before we had the AAP safe sleep recommendations. I began working with SIDS of Illinois as a volunteer shortly after my son’s death. In 2000, I was hired as the Executive Director for SIDS of Illinois, Inc. I am an RN and provide education to hospitals and childcare providers on safe sleep According to the latest statistics, the death rate due to SIDS has decreased by over 70% since 1993. However, deaths due to unsafe sleep settings are rising. In 2010, SIDS of Illinois, Inc. was responsible for the mandate that every childcare provider in IL must have SIDS Risk Reduction/Infant Safe Sleep education every three years to obtain and maintain licensure.

Marie Masterson: This topic is dear to my heart as it helps me explain the child’s experience to teachers – who want very much to be effective in behavior guidance. Even though teachers receive lots of professional development, they often lack knowledge of children’s missing self-direction skills (e.g., executive function) and need training in specific research-based strategies to build needed anchors of success. By learning how to transfer responsibility, teachers can decrease children’s reliance on external prompts and strengthen their growing ability to make healthy and constructive decisions. Children become aware of the needs of others and experience mindfulness and joy in mutual cooperation. This is a whole-child approach that nurtures and empowers competence.

Heather M. McGee: I never realized I had a gift in making strange toys. Then, one day, a mother watched in amazement as her two year old child, who never sat still, proceeded to spend an hour and a half simply playing a game she could have made with items straight from her kitchen. That’s when I knew I had something different. In my line of work, parents don’t have a lot of money to spend on expensive toys for their children. I decided to make it my challenge to create games and toys that did things better than store bought toys. We don’t need a lot of money or things to make our children happy, we need time and ideas. My inspiration comes from the children I work with. As they need improving on certain skills, I make it my job to create a game just for them that they’ll enjoy and want to play. Teaching children, parents, and teachers how to think outside the box has become one of my biggest goals. People forget how creative they can be if they just sit and think about it.

Maria Boeke Mongillo: In researching disciplinary literacy, I have found it often considered a skill for older students. However, my background in early childhood tells me that younger children and ECE classrooms are actually well suited for this type of discipline specific learning. For example, many ECE classrooms are organized around centers, clearly defined spaces that distinguish the tools of one discipline from another. Likewise, young children are quick to believe they are authors or artists or scientists and possess the curiosity that allows them to explore, try new activities, and practice what adults model for them. I share this topic to further illuminate the importance of quality pre-k experiences and to support the teachers and leaders who are constantly looking to enhance their practices. I am an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University. I am an advocate for Pre-K access for all children and developing leaders who know ECE.

Eric Pakulak: Eric Pakulak is the Acting Director of the Brain Development Lab (BDL) at the University of Oregon.  His Ph.D. Is in Psychology with an emphasis on cognitive neuroscience, and he also holds degrees in Linguistics and Russian.  His primary research interest is the development, implementation, and assessment of evidence-based training programs that simultaneously target at-risk children and their parents (two-generation approaches).  Related research interests include the neuroplasticity of brain systems important for language and attention and the effects of early adversity on neural organization for these systems.  He explores these questions in both children and adults using techniques to measure brain function and stress physiology.  Currently, Dr. Pakulak is closely involved in several ongoing lines of research on a two-generation program developed in the BDL, including cultural adaptation, scale-up for broader implementation, and broader assessment of outcomes in both children and parents.

Sunny Park-Johnson: Multilingualism is becoming increasingly valued in today’s society; however, there are still many myths and misunderstandings about childhood bilingualism (e.g., will my child become confused having to learn two languages at once?). In particular, many young bilingual children are still discouraged from code-mixing in both school and at home, dismissing it as “bad Spanish” or “poor English”. As a linguist, teacher educator, parent, and bilingual myself, I have both seen and experienced these negative attitudes toward language mixing in both my professional and personal spheres. From this, my research has been focused on attitudes toward and linguistic complexity of code-mixing, a sophisticated, natural, and intentional practice by multilingual individuals. I am an assistant professor of Bilingual-Bicultural Education at DePaul University. My research areas include early second language acquisition, bilingualism, and code-switching.

Kathleen M. Sheridan: This is a project that our UIC team has been working on for a number of years. We now know that success with early math is a better predictor of academic success than early reading. Early math matters! However, many early childhood teachers report that they are uncomfortable with their own math knowledge and are uncomfortable teaching math in their early childhood classrooms. We became passionate about helping EC teachers gain more math knowledge and learn to teach it in their own classrooms. Kathleen M. Sheridan is an associate professor in the department of Educational Psychology.

Kathy Slattery: I am a volunteer State Coordinator for the Selective Mutism Group and assist families in accessing effective treatment for their children. I also am the Project Director for STAR NET Region II Kathy Slattery is the Project Director at STAR NET Region II in Arlington Heights. She is also a State Coordinator for the Selective Mutism Group and assists a parent support group.

Kathryn Slivovsky: “When I told my preschool teacher I had two moms, she told me not to talk about it.” –Sara P. Because I am passionate about equality, I want to empower teachers to create an atmosphere of acceptance that nurtures and supports children who are growing up with gay parents and/or are gender non-conforming. I use images, research, activities, and hands-on resources to have an open discussion about how and why to include the LGBTQ community. I also share what Chicago Children’s Museum has done and how we handle tough questions with staff and visitors. I chair CCM’s LGBTQ Inclusion Team which actively welcomes and engages LGBTQ children and families through signage, programs and staff training.

Carole H. Stephens: I’ve found many teachers feel uncomfortable making music with their students. This workshop empowers teachers of all abilities to sing and move – essentials for brain and body growth – with developmentally appropriate songs and dances that are easily reproduced in their classrooms. For 26 years I’ve been encouraging early childhood educators to make music an integral part of their curriculum – and they tell me I’m making a difference in their classrooms! I have 26 years of classroom experience as an Early Childhood Music Teacher and 18 years as a nationally recognized clinician, presenting workshops for teachers, librarians, and parents.

Maryann Suero: Early childhood educators are uniquely positioned to take simple, informed steps to make changes in their classrooms that have a positive impact on children’s health, well-being, and ability to learn. My session will help them do this. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food than adults. Their behaviors, such as playing close to the ground and hand-to- mouth activity, increase their exposure to toxic substances. Because they’re still developing, they’re more vulnerable to environmental hazards and less able than adults to clear toxins. Environmental risks to children include asthma-exacerbating contaminants, lead-based paint in older buildings, and persistent chemicals that have been linked to cancer, obesity, and reproductive and developmental changes. Maryann Suero, PhD. is Children’s Health (CH) Program Manager at the United States Environmental Protection Agency where she builds capacity and provides technical assistance for CH to federal, state, local & community partners.

Harry Walker: In this day and age of rapidly expanding knowledge and instant access to information, the following question begs to be asked: What is the Essential Learning that needs to be taught to best prepare our students for the future? A growing research base supports the fact that schools must meet the social and emotional developmental needs of students for effective teaching and learning to take place and for students to reach their full potential. One can make the case that Social Emotional Learning should be the fourth “R” in our schools, let’s call it Real Life Learning. Dr. Harry Walker is the Founding School Leader of Carolina Voyager Charter School in Charleston, South Carolina. Carolina Voyager is a diverse elementary school in Charleston. Dr. Walker has over 34 years of experience in public education. His varied teaching experiences included work in early childhood, elementary, middle school, and special education. Dr. Walker served as an elementary school principal in two Maryland school districts for 18 years prior to founding Voyager. He also worked in the role of Senior Education Consultant for Education Elements, a leading blended learning technology-consulting firm based in San Carlos, California.

Feel the passion of thousands of professionals who come together annually, for four days in Chicago for the most dynamic early education conference and learning experience in the nation.

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