14th annual Early Childhood Conference held

SAYRE – The Learning Early Network’s 14th Annual day-long conference was held recently at the Sayre Theatre and Guthrie Campus in downtown Sayre. This year’s theme was “Learning and Inclusion Through the Arts”.

Early childhood advocates, parents and educators filled the theatre’s Guthrie Performing Arts Center.

Conference introduction was followed by the announcement of the Jan Carpenter Award winner.

The Jan Carpenter Award honors outstanding early childhood educators in the Bradford County Region each year at the Learning Early Network Conference. This award is in memory of Jan Carpenter, a “wonderful person who gave everything in her power to children” and “an outstanding teacher in the Bradford County Daycare System for many years.”

Three nominations were received and the winner, Helen Sides, was announced by BCRAC’s Director Emeritus Brooks Eldredge-Martin, and Jan Carpenter’s siblings, Joyce Croteau and Eleanor Hill, and niece Allison Brookhart. Sides received a personal plaque, a $50 Valley gift certificate, and her name on the Jan Carpenter Award Plaque, which will be on public display at the Sayre Theatre.

The stage then cleared for the official conference kick-off with Keynote Speaker Kurt Kondrich. Kondrich’s speech focused on the importance of early childhood advocacy and his personal experience as a father with a special needs child. Attendees described him as an “Amazing man” with a “fantastic” presentation. Many were moved to tears as Kondrich described the challenges and triumphs of his daughter Chloe’s life with Down Syndrome.

Kondrich remained at the Sayre Theatre as a crowd of attendees gathered under the marquee to show their support for early childhood.

By 10 a.m., parents and educators attended a variety of workshops at Guthrie Campus, while some remained for workshops held at the theatre and the church next door. There were 17 workshop sessions in total; presenters included a wide range of teachers, early intervention experts, artists with early childhood training, parents of special needs children, and state and local programs, organizations, and service providers.

Workshops and presenters were as follows:

– Transitions in Pre-K (learning strategies for transition times) and Reading Essentials (reading readiness activities) with Cindy Middendorf.

– Learning by Observing (scientific exploration activities) with Brooks Eldredge-Martin.

– Sensory Processing (strategies for sensory differences) with Mina Bapat.

– We Want to Learn Too! (adaptions for daily activities) with Melinda Godshall and Valerie Postal.

– Visual Arts Projects (homemade art projects for the classroom) with Gail Jones.

– Making Connections with Music (rhythm, beat and homemade instruments) with David Driskell.

– Teaching Tolerance (techniques to teach other children about special needs classmates) with Nicole Golden.

– Another Tool in Your Toolbox (resources for families and caregivers) with Nicole Golden and Tammy Pursel.

– Growing Up Wild (activities to reconnect with nature) with Tim Morey.

– So You Think You Want to Homeschool (introduction and options) with Debby Frisk.

Attendees then participate in the final workshop at Sayre Theatre. Mega Bubble Man performed bubble magic while showing how science can be fun for both students and teachers.

Both Act 48 and PQAS Credits were available to educators attending the conference. The 15th Annual Learning Early Conference will take place Friday, April 25, 2014.