Keynote Sessions

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Behind the Mask

Conference Keynote presented by Kevin Booker, Jr

In March, many of us thought our new reality would be temporary.  Yet nearly 12 months later, COVID-19 has created a new normal in the world of education.  This pandemic has made us stop, reflect, reframe, and renew our practices, outlook, and purpose as educators and leaders in early child education.  This keynote address will highlight stories of perseverance, focus our mind on reframing our challenges, and inspire us to continue moving forward.

About Kevin Booker, Jr: 

Kevin L. Booker, Jr. is the founder of Booker Empowerment, LLC (established in 2007) and has been an educator for 20 years.  He is committed to uplifting and educating individuals.  Mr. Booker realized his passion for encouraging others who do not have a voice when he was 12 years old.  At that young age, he committed to fighting for young people, understood the importance of helping others see their full potential, and dedicated himself to a life of seeking social justice.


Mr. Booker went on to achieve various degrees through the support of his family and strong mentors.  He teaches college and high school level classes, trains men and women who have been sexually assaulted, facilitates leadership and diversity workshops, and lectures.  He is a mentor and speaks publicly all over the country to encourage people to understand the power of education and using their voice to make positive change.  Mr. Booker is a regular volunteer with the American Red Cross and spent 7 weeks in Puerto Rico to help after Hurricane Maria.  He also volunteers regularly in a local elementary school, supporting reading instruction, something he has done for the last five years.  Mr. Booker has a strong passion for encouraging others to stay positive through adversity and volunteers his time working with many individuals from various backgrounds.


Mr. Booker was recognized by the Windsor Human Relations Commission in receiving their 2019 Bridge Builders Award for his unifying work in leading workshops and circles for members of the community to discuss issues on race, inequalities, and the impact those issues have on the community.  Mr. Booker is a City Councilor for the City of New London CT.  He serves on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Connecticut, ISAAC School Board of Directors in New London, CT, and Hartford Job Corps Academy Outreach Board in Hartford, CT.  His motto is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Now's the Time!

Administrative Keynote presented by Susan MacDonald

Moving beyond the stress and challenges of the past year requires leaders to be intentional and focused on all that is possible. This motivational presentation will guide participants in creating a vision focused action plan for effectively managing their time. New strategies and well-researched tools will inspire participants to incorporate new habits, rituals, and daily practices to enhance their well-being and reignite their passion for leading early childhood programs.

About Susan MacDonald: 

Susan MacDonald is passionate about inspiring positive change in the early childhood field.  Her expertise is reflected in her professional speaking, coaching, and books, Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership and Inspiring Professional Growth.  Susan is the founder of Inspiring New Perspectives, a consultancy focused on empowering educators and school leaders to create programs that deeply respect and nurture the possibilities that lie within each child, parent, and teacher.  Susan has been developing and delivering inspirational courses and workshops for over 25 years. Her background includes director of a Reggio inspired preschool program, adjunct faculty at Lesley University and Wheelock College, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensing supervisor. Susan holds a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and several professional coaching certifications. She is the past president of the Boston Area Reggio Inspired Network and past vice president of the Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children.

Administrator Sessions


Updates and Input, a conversation with Commissioner Bye

Presented by Commissioner Beth Bye

Commissioner Beth Bye will present the

most recent updates from the Office of Early Childhood,  then take feedback and questions from the session participants.


A is for Advocacy!

Presented by Rachel Giannini

Using our outside voices for real change.

You! Yes, you covered in paint! You are an advocate! This workshop discusses all the ways educators can take on the role of advocacy. Focuses on using social media platforms, letter writing, and extending our voices. (60 min) 

About Rachel: 

Rachel Giannini is a childhood specialist, an early childhood advocate, and a video blog host.  You may recognize her from the film "No Small Matter".   She currently splits her time as a public speaker, early childhood commentator, and curriculum designer. 

Rachel’s writing, expertise, and videos have appeared in Vox, The New York Times, HuffPost, Child Care Exchange, and Chicago Parent. Rachel has an MFA in Museum Education from the University of Illinois and is a volunteer hospital magician for Open Heart Magic.

If you are human, you are biased. Let's reflect, re-frame and renew our approach

at re-engaging WITH FAMILIES

Presented by Alexis Safo-Agyeman

Let's bring attention and recognize our biases and how they affect our view when it comes to family engagement as an educator. Examine your own social and cultural identity and move forward with a more informed way to work towards culturally competent engagement. Let's reflect, re-frame and renew our approach at re-engaging with families. 

Transforming Into An Equitable Backbone Supporter

Presented by Althea Marshall Brooks & Chemay Morales-James (Waterbury Bridge to Success)

Over the past three years, Bridge to Success has intentionally integrated an equity mindset into the partnership’s everyday practices, rather than viewing equity as an add-on. In this workshop, BTS will highlight the steps of this transformation, including successes, hurdles, and insights around engaging community partners on issues related to race, power and privilege.

Virtual Team Meeting

Zoom Tips & Tricks for  Effective and Engaging Virtual Meetings

Presented by Jean Barresi

Zoom is more than a virtual meeting space! In this session, participants will explore the many features Zoom has available. Beginning with a basic walkthrough of the Zoom settings and then moving onto exploring each of the features more deeply, tips and tricks will be shared to help make staff meetings more effective, interactive, and engaging. If time permits, additional tools will be shared that can be used to increase interaction.

Navigating the Tidal Waves of Self-Sacrifice

Presented by Kevin Cornelio

As caregivers, we’re gifted at caring for others, but that gift too often comes at the cost of ourselves. Learn about a system of self-reinforcement, specially designed to enhance your ability to treat yourselves as well as you treat others.

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Hot Topics in Connecticut: What You Need To Know About Mandating Employee COVID-19 Vaccinations, Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave and Other Recent Developments in Connecticut Employment Law

Presented by Glenn Dowd,

Attorney at Law

Join us for an informative session by

Glenn Dowd, Attorney at Law, with

Day-Pitney.  More session information

to come.  

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Educator Sessions

Painting Class

ABCs of Learning Centers in a Family Child Care Setting

Presented by Debbie Keiser, Funshine Express

Join us in this interactive webinar to explore time-saving tips to create, organize, and implement exploration stations in your classroom environment. You will receive ideas for arranging your environment, six basic station types that can be easily modified, and many ideas for incorporating station time into your daily schedule.

Managing Stress: Our New Normal

Presented by Linda Flach, M Ed and Tracy Smith, LMSW

Early Childhood Teachers have increasingly unique challenges during these unprecedented times, particularly regarding their own ability to manage and thrive. Understanding that children and adults respond to stressors in very different ways, several techniques will be taught and practiced for use with both ourselves and those we care for.

Stress Relief at Your Finger-Tips with Tapping

Presented by Tijana Coso

In this experiential session you will learn and practice brain science-based Tapping. It’s easy to learn and use. You gently tap on Acupuncture points on your own body to automatically self-regulate emotions and build a strong feeling of safety and empowering resiliency. Included is a complimentary follow-up skill development call.

Embracing Diversity in Early Childhood Classrooms

Presented by Dr. Mary Beth Lawton

Embracing Diversity in Early Childhood Classrooms. This workshop provides specific strategies for early childhood teachers to help young children recognize and challenge bias and specific strategies for teachers to support the racial, ethnic, gender, class, physical abilities/ characteristics, and sexual orientation of children and their families.

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What Multilingual Learners CAN DO

Presented by Jean Barresi and Michelle Dent

Often times, the skills of children whose primary language is not English are looked at through a deficit lens. In this session, teachers will explore a positive approach to planning for multilingual learners and ALL children within their classroom communities using an asset-based approach. Come learn about what multilingual learners CAN DO!

Imaginative and Inventive Block Play

Presented by Nancy Ferullo

Are you looking for fresh new ideas to ignite block play and take it to a new level? Are you looking for ways to incorporate block play into targeted skill building activities? Is your block center in need of a little makeover? Join us for this hand on workshop designed to offer ideas, set ups and ways to create and engaging, imaginative and “best ever” block center in your classroom!


Using Sign Language Without Being Fluent

Presented by Rachel Giannini

To be an expert to a child you simply need to know one thing more than them. Participants in this workshop will learn how to implement sign language to enhance literacy, projects, and classroom management. 

Building Resilience through Early Talk

Presented by Caitlyn Stafford and Katie McGinnis

Stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be wide-ranging and to impact adults and children. Research shows that a focus on maintaining positive interactions can help reduce stress and build responsive relationships, a key component in boosting resilience.

Taking  Mindful Moment

Tressa Giordano & Laura Eldredge, The Seeds Network

Providing opportunities to slow down, re-center and be present in the moment have proven to have huge benefits for adults and children.  Explore ways you can bring mindfulness into your class with age-appropriate books, hands-on activities, breathing and stretching techniques. 


Supporting Social Success in the COVID Classroom

Presented by Meghan Cave, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)

COVID-19 has dramatically changed early childhood education as we once knew it, and the impact on social learning is most notable. The rules of social interactions at their core have changed time and time again in accordance with the most recent health and safety guidelines. Our littlest learners are faced with the challenge of learning a whole new set of social norms all while trying to achieve critical developmental milestones. As such, early childhood educators are charged with a new, everso-important task of supporting social success in the COVID classroom. In this workshop, educators will identify barriers to social learning in the COVID classroom, discuss the various educational models that currently exist as a result of COVID-19, and review strategies early childhood educators can use to support social success in both virtual and in-person settings.

Safe and Effective Dance & Sports Activities for the COVID classroom 

Presented by Maria Costanza, Kids in Motion Children's Program

Whether you're looking to make liven up the winter lockdown, or make a splash at summer camp this entertaining session has your covered. The founder of Kids in Motion Programs will guide you through the basics of dance choreography and structured sports activities for the classroom.  Learn how to employ simple dance moves, group activities and individual sports skills using the SEED method, all while maintaining proper COVID safety measures. All ages, abilities and fitness levels are welcome as we discover more ways to foster the social, emotional and cognitive growth of our children. 

10 Ways to Support a Diverse Environment for Language Learning, Communication and Interaction

Presented by Amy Anderson Moncy

Are you looking for ways to help your students share ideas, gain information, respond to questions, and share common experiences? Do you want to explore strategies to support communication and interaction? If so, this presentation will provide you with ideas to support shared conversations of diverse communication partners across settings.

Building Child and Family Resilience

Presented by Michelle Donahue

From the perspective of a director and head teacher, we will discuss the tips and strategies used to help our children and families feel a sense of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic and difficult time, while also building in appropriate safety protocols to keep my program open.

Supporting Anxious Children and their Families: An Introduction to SPACE

Presented by Rebecca Etkin, PhD, Yale Child Study

This presentation will provide an overview of SPACE, a unique parent-based treatment for childhood anxiety and related difficulties. This presentation additionally aims to help educators and administrators identify anxious children and their families who may benefit from receiving this intervention.

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It Takes a Village: An Evidence-Based Approach to Parent Training

Presented by Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)

As educators, we have a robust toolbox of skills and knowledge we utilize to promote learning. However, we all know that it takes a village to raise a child, and parents are a critical members of that village. How do we empower parents to carry over programming beyond the walls of our classrooms? How do we ensure that this process is not overwhelming for parents and educators alike? In this workshop, educators will learn how to establish an effective parent training program so their families can reap the benefits of a cohesive and collaborative plan that extends beyond the immediate classroom, a task which has become increasingly important in a COVID world that sometimes requires parents to step in and support the educational process through an at-home learning model at a moment’s notice.

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Mindful Teachers/Mindful Children:  The Art of Teaching Mindfulness to Young Children to Help with Social/Emotional Skills

Presented by Tracy Cheney

You've most likely heard about "mindfulness" but may have thought it was just the latest buzzword in the world of education. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the here and now (also known as being "present.) Mindfulness reconnects children to their five senses, bringing them into a moment-by-moment awareness of themselves and their surroundings through breathing exercises, visualization activities, and learning how to focus on learning opportunities, such as Circle Time, Small Group Time/Learning Centers, and Large Group Time. Research shows that mindfulness helps children be more attentive, less anxious, and better able to handle their emotions and self-regulation. As children build and strengthen these skills, they become capable of exhibiting empathy, compassion, patience and acquire better emotional and social skills.

Powerful Interactions to Build Resiliency during a Pandemic

Presented by Meg Formica

I see you. I notice you. We make the difference! Teacher’s strong relationships with children help them feel safe and secure. Our strong relationships are a resiliency factor. Powerful Interactions have positive long term outcomes for young children and increase teacher job satisfaction. How do you fill your cup and stay positive? Are you connecting with all the children in your class? We will answer these questions and review10 strategies to extend children’s learning reviewing NAEYC’s Powerful Interactions, Dombro Jablon and Stetson revised publication, sharing ideas with each other and watching videos.

Supporting Parents to Work with their Infants and Toddlers in the Virtual World

Presented by Patti Jo Wilson, Lakeshore Learning

We will examine how building strong relationships, communicating, and being sensitive to the needs of families of infants and toddlers affects their social emotional and academic development. We will explore strategies of connecting with families to support them virtually. We will review and discuss ideas for hands-on activities, songs, free online resources to keep families and children learning and engaged while having fun.

Friendly Conversation

From Adversity to Resilience

Presented by Jeanine K. Fitzgerald 

Most of us have a plan for how we want to live our lives and we have spent the majority of time executing that plan. Sometimes life events separate us from the plan, either temporarily or permanently. Enter COVID! The daily routines that felt all too natural are now a thing of the past. Stress has become a norm, but it is not a healthy state. And those who are emotionally engaged with survival have little to no energy for learning.


This session will look at the lessons learned about stress, learning, motivation and resilience so they can be applied to everyday life as we continue to move beyond adversity and come back stronger.

Secrets of Baby Behavior

Presented by Monica Belyea

Do babies have a “hungry cry?” Why is night waking healthy for babies? How do infants tell us what they need? How do we respond? Why does it matter? We’ll talk about these questions and watch lots of cute videos to see just how babies use their bodies and make sounds to tell us what they need. For families and all caregivers of young infants.

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Using Daily Routines to Support Remote Learning

Christina Lye, C.E.S. Early Childhood Specialist 

When children are engaged in remote learning, families and caregivers are faced with the task of teaching their children, while still managing the day-to-day activities of family life. One way to ease the burden on families is by helping them see how those daily activities have the potential to be rich learning experiences. Come and explore the types of routines we can encourage families to engage in, and how we can support families in turning those times into learning opportunities. 


Mindology Fitness

Presented by Troy Byer

Through this effective speaking lecture, each participant will deepen their understanding of how individuals process emotions and will learn specific mood-regulating techniques. By the end of the course, participants will know how to soothe these unwanted emotions. Participants will learn: Skills to regulate Stress, Fear, Anxiety, Grief, Self-Confidence; Deactivate Triggers; Activate Heart's Intelligence; Peace on Demand.

Collecting Meaningful Data to Conduct Assessments During Fluctuating Times

Anne Marie Davidson and Melanie Smith-Cervera Early Childhood Specialists, EASTCONN

During this unprecedented time, in-person, remote, and hybrid learning models are proving to be challenging times for teachers to collect data on children, but it remains an important component of early care and education. When we consider meaningful data collection, it is tied to the various types of learning opportunities we provide: whole group, small group, individual time, and through play. In addition, teachers are consistently working to include relationship building with the children in their program and connecting with families in many ways. In this session, we will explore various strategies for collecting information about children’s learning and development as well as how to engage families in the process of assessment. Participants will learn how to use screening tools, data collection tools, and family input to help guide their planning for assessment.

Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom

Tressa Giordano & Laura Eldredge, The Seeds Network

Explore the ways teachers can use technology to enhance curriculum, communicate with families, support students with disabilities, and provide professional development. Learn about a variety resources and websites to use in teaching, and to streamline everyday tasks.