Educators attend conference

Close to 190 early care and education providers and presenters from SW Colorado and NW New Mexico gathered together on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Fort Lewis College in Durango to participate in the 2nd Annual SW District of the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children Conference (CAEYC). The theme of the conference was “It’s all about relationships.” The conference was co-sponsored by the Montelores Early Childhood Council, the SW District of CAEYC, Fort Lewis College/Teacher Education and the Early Childhood Professional Training Project, funded by the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation of Denver.

All Colorado child care providers must complete at least 15 hours of annual training to boost their knowledge and skills to ultimately improve quality of care. This conference provided a local opportunity for providers to achieve the Colorado Division of Child Care’s requirement for such training. Providers could earn up to 6.5 hours of training at the conference.

Why a theme about relationships? Relationships are at the heart of nearly everything and the quality of relationships determines whether a relationship will thrive or flounder! We have all kinds of relationships — with people and with things. If we work at nurturing the various relationships in our lives, we will likely have much better outcomes. Some relationships can be challenging, and advice and guidance may be needed to improve those relationships. The goal of this annual conference is to consider the relationships that early care and education providers are likely to encounter in their work with young children and their families, and to learn new strategies to improve outcomes.

Child care workers have relationships with those they work with, including the children in their care, parents and other family members, and support personnel. They work at developing a web of nurturing relationships to benefit the children and families that they work with on a daily basis. But, it is not easy and help is needed to learn how to make relationships work better for all involved.

Most children in child care are in that setting because their parents are at work. Such children spend a significant amount of time away from their parents. We know that the early years are very important to a child’s development and thus, the quality of care must be high to achieve good outcomes for the children. Nurturing relationships are a key component for quality in child care settings.

Workshop topics at the conference were rich and varied and some were led by local residents of Montezuma and Dolores counties. All topics touched — in some way — on “relationships.” Local presenters were Lindsay Havran, Mary Dodd, Casie LaMunyon, Patricia Nelson, Deb Quinlan, Delilah Darland, Rebecca Larson, Kristin Croker and Dr. Bob Seney. They led workshops on topics ranging from Developing a Classroom Community; Understanding, Fostering and Facilitating the Earliest Relationships; Using Books to Promote Learning and Social/Emotional Competence; Taking a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes; Diabetes Prevention; Child Passenger Safety Education; Bridges Out of Poverty; Foundation of Leadership for EC Professionals; Building Relationships Through Children’s Literature; and It’s All About the Relationships That We Build.

Dr. Gail Joseph, an associate professor at the University of Washington, was the keynote speaker. In addition to teaching there, Dr. Joseph is currently also co-leading a five-year $40 million Head Start Grant promoting early childhood learning. She has authored numerous books and articles. Her talk “If you’re happy and you know it: practical strategies for supporting social and emotional skills with young children” was well-received. It may seem simple but helping a group of young children learn to sit quietly, take turns, be patient, get along with one another and control and understand their emotions takes a great deal of skill. And, if children don’t learn these things before they enter kindergarten or first grade, research suggests that they will more likely struggle and flounder, and may need costly interventions in order to achieve success.

The third annual conference will be held again next fall with the same theme, “It’s all about relationships.” Revisiting this topic in a systematic way on a regular basis promotes the value and importance of working at building good relationships so that all may thrive.

Barbara Dodds is Project Administrator for the Early Childhood Professional Training Project and is a member of MECC.

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