The following post was contributed by Pam Bernards, Director of Professional Development at NCEA.
What an awesome day I had with 260+ Early Childhood Educators at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s (AoP) Third Annual Early Childhood Conference held at Holy Family University (HFU)! The experience left me totally energized and excited about the beginning of my 36th year in Catholic education. I am privileged to meet and work with so many exceptional Catholic school educators from across the country and can’t help but get excited when I experience first-hand the “Good News” of Catholic school education.
With Sr. Edward William Quinn, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, as the chief architect of the day, attendees were welcomed by AoP Superintendent for Elementary Schools, Debra Brillante and HFU Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Kevin Zook. The opening keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph White, shared current research on best practice in Early Childhood Education.
He challenged attendees to consider what Dr. Pam Schiller describes as “Windows of Opportunity” when planning instruction for early learners. Schiller notes that our cognitive, affective, and psychomotor abilities are the foundation for all learning and defines the “Windows of Opportunity” as the times when the brain is most receptive to wiring each of these three domains. Click here to read more.
Dr. White concluded by providing intentional, carefully thought out instructional practices which align with the “Windows of Opportunity” research and that teachers can implement when returning to their classroom.
During the remainder of the day, attendees had the opportunity to choose from nine presentations during each of two breakout sessions. Topics included Creative Practices for the Early Childhood Classroom, Blended Learning as Effective Practice in Early Childhood Classes, Technology for Tots, and The Kindness Curriculum to name a few. The presenters modeled instructional practices teachers are encouraged use such as technology integration and hands-on, collaborative learning experiences.
Additionally, eight vendors provided interested teachers with welcomed information about Early Childhood resources and shared how they could be used to serve the educational needs of the early learner.
It was a wonderful day! As I reflected on my experience, there were several things (in addition to the wonderful program) that stood out in my mind. A culture of shared leadership was evident. It began with the AoP staff who were models of servant leadership as they worked together cohesively to ensure a successful event in service to the teachers. It was also manifested through the work of the Early Childhood Committee, chaired by Kathy Zerumsky, who had an active role in providing input in to the program, planning the prayer service, assisting with set-up, and presenting several of the sessions. Finally, the partnership with Holy Family University and relationships with the vendors were also key elements for a successful day!