MaineAEYC Conference: Partners in Progress from Birth to 3rd Grade

MaineAEYC Conference: Partners in Progress from Birth to 3rd Grade

from 30.00

Exploring the Power of Relationships with Children, Families, and Colleagues

Saturday, October 27, 8:00am-3:45pm

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

$70 General Rate

$35 Special Rate for MaineAEYC and FCCAM Members

$30 Student Rate

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MaineAEYC or FCCAM Member?:

Join MaineAEYC and Maine Roads to Quality for our 2018 early childhood education conference. Explore topics such as building resiliency and trauma-informed practices; communication with colleagues, children, and families; social and emotional development in nature; deepening connections with children; early childhood mental health; and inclusion and special education services. Discover how our knowledge of these topics facilitates early learning success in public and private K-3, preschool, and infant and toddler early care and education.

A certificate for 7 training hours will be issued to all participants.



8am - Check-In, Coffee & Refreshments, Vendors & Networking

8:30am - Welcome with Kat Kempe from NAEYC

8:45-9:45am - Keynote: Seth Rigoletti

10:00am-12:00pm  - Morning Breakout Session

12:00-1:15pm - Lunch and MRTQ Marcia Lovell Awards Presentation

1:30-2:30pm - Afternoon Breakout Session

2:40-3:40pm - Afternoon Breakout Session

3:45pm - Evaluations & Closing



Communication is about Connection, Seth Rigoletti
While our focus as early educators is always the child, we do not work in isolation when caring for children. Our work with parents, our team, other professionals and the outside world is critical to the health and well-being of the child. How do we build trust and a collaborative spirit when we work with other adults? What does it take to understand the needs of others while also being understood? Why do some messages get lost and intentions misunderstood? This keynote will answer these basic questions while providing the audience with some tangible actions that they can do to grow their awareness of their own communication style and to improve how they align their intentions with the impact that they have on others - all with the focus to better our practice for children and families.

Seth Rigoletti is a Leadership Coach whose main skill is in providing clarity and practical communication skills to people and organizations. He has worked with politicians, engineers, artists, scientists, executives and entrepreneurs to help them project confidence and communicate effectively regardless of the situation. With a background in theater, he offers awareness around nonverbal communication as well as skills for better listening and relationship building, which leads to a more resonant leadership style. The goal of his work is to help people realize their potential and their vision by overcoming their obstacles to better communication and more authentic relationships.


Morning Breakout Session



K-3 Connections: Classroom Community in Elementary School

Heather Marden

During this session, we will discuss the steps taken to create classroom communities that highlight the social/emotional concepts needed to build upon as members of a larger community.  We will look through the eyes of a child and help them define what a classroom community should look like, sound like, and feel like. Using those definitions, children can begin to reference them in their problem solving and communication with one another.  We will look at activities and children's books that help reinforce these teachings. We will also discuss the importance of including community members in our curriculum to give the children first hand insight on the many roles that help our communities function. Target Audience: K-3 Teachers and Administrators


Applying Attachment Based Principles to Relationships with Infants & Young Toddlers

Laina Clugston, M.A.

This session will focus on building strong, intentional and authentic relationships with infants, young toddlers and their families in a group care setting. Caring for infants is a unique dance which includes non-verbal communication, intense caregiving moments, exhaustive emotional work and the close partnership with their parents. This can be difficult to navigate at times, particularly when working with multiple infants at once. This session will offer and pull from the basics from the Neufeld Institute out of Vancouver, Canada in order to offer participants concrete strategies on bettering their relationships and care of infants. Target Audience: infant and toddler teachers

Brain Development & Challenging Behavior

Tara McDonald

During this session, participants will develop a greater understanding of brain development using the triune model of the brain. Brain states awareness will support and strengthen participants understanding of the behaviors seen in their classrooms and give participants new compassion and empathy for the children who may struggle with regulation. This understanding will influence strategies to engage students in the social emotional learning that is so imperative to their success. Throughout this session participants will not only have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of students, but of themselves as well.  By becoming more mindful of their own brain states, triggers and classroom stressors, they will leave feeling more equipped to navigate classroom challenges, support dysregulated students and manage their own brain states. Target Audience: teachers of infants and toddlers, PreK-3, special education, and administrators

Creating Environments that Build Connection with Families in Poverty

Miriam Dodge

This session will focus on changing and understanding the perspective of poverty and those that struggle in poverty. We’ll explore real and structural causes of poverty and provide life-changing information that shatters common myths and stereotypes about people who live in poverty. We will discuss how to support and create environments that build understanding and relationships. When we build relationships, we empower communities and organizations to “fight poverty, not the people who live in it.” Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK-3, special education, and administrators


Send in the Puppets: Social/Emotional Growth through Puppetry and Imaginative Play

Leigh Ann Fish

Join us for a fun-filled session of the serious work of child’s play! A fascinating look at the use of puppets in encouraging social-emotional growth, processing trauma, and encouraging imaginative play. We will examine the use of puppets in popular children’s media (Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), share tips and stories from well-known puppeteers, performers, and child psychologists, and explore ways to use puppets and other forms of play at home and at school as alternatives to mass-produced toys and screen media. Time will be provided to make/create puppets. This session is appropriate for all who wish to justify and incorporate more imaginative play into their settings. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, PreK-3, special education teachers, and administrators.


Teach, Learn, Coach - Mentoring in Early Childhood Settings

Jane Benesch

This workshop guides participants to reflect on their experiences being mentored and mentoring others. Opportunities for mentoring relationships in early childhood settings are explored. A framework for observing, providing feedback, collaborative action planning and reflection is presented. We will explore professional growth instruments that can be used in early childhood programs, practice observational and feedback techniques, and develop a customized action planning instrument based on current needs. Target Audience: Administrators and Leaders of programs and schools with infants and toddlers, preschool, PreK and K-3

Understanding the Context for Building Strong & Meaningful Relationships with Parents

Martha Eshoo

Participants will gain perspective and awareness for how our child care centers are designed to recognize parent involvement. Do we recognize a partnership between teacher and parent or do we invite parents to participate as the centers desire?  How does the community context inform how parents see themselves in our centers and how teachers recognize their role in their child’s life at the center. Too often centers build systems for participation and access to information for white middle class families leaving out a number of families in their population. Yet when center administration and teaching staff assign channels of communication and participation that don’t reflect the culture of the community we run the risk of including only parents share our values. This session will lead participants to conversations that include metacognitive structures for understanding parents, assumptions that are ingrained culturally and professionally, and values around communication systems. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool and PreK, and administrators

InTREEgrated Learning Approaches: Exploring Social & Emotional Learning in Nature

Robin Holman

Nature has a tendency to nudge our sense of wonder and curiosity. Intentionally immersing children in the natural world is a first step to developing a mindset that connects self to others.
The relationship to the natural world can set children on the unhurried path to being responsible and involved citizens.  Natural environments are the perfect spaces to observe and learn about the developing child and the season of fall is wonderful time of year to be immersed in the language, art, science, and spirit of trees. This hands on workshop is designed to increase awareness of our own relationship with nature, to explore how "inTREEgrated" experiences influence learning and development across all domains, and share strategies that integrate the whole child with nature. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK, and K-3


Afternoon Breakout Sessions (each session will be offered twice)

1:30-2:30pm and 2:40-3:40pm


Building a Bridge to a Shared Vision: Power to the Profession and Advancing a Unified ECE Profession

Katherine Kempe from NAEYC

Power to the Profession is the national collaboration at the heart of defining the early childhood education profession. This profession-led initiative is working to establish a unifying framework of career pathways, knowledge and competencies, qualifications, standards, and compensation. With this framework as our base, we can make a stronger case for public investment and support. Together, we can build a bridge to a future profession that is supported, recognized, diverse, and compensated.  Learn about and engage in this national effort. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK-3, special education, and administrators

The Role of Life Experiences in Raising Healthy & Thriving Children & Communities

Miriam Dodge

From the Maine Resilience Building Network (MRBN), this (Level 1) session includes an introduction to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. We will study what adverse childhood experiences look like in Maine and the important role that resilience building plays in healthy and thriving children and communities. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK-3, special education, and administrators


Executive Functioning Skills in Collaborative Art

Lily O’Brian (Children’s Museum)

Participants will use executive function skills as a guide to understand the importance of creating together for the developing child. At the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, most of our art programming is collaborative. Instead of each child creating independently, we create something together. During this session, we will identify executive function skills developed through team work, try a collaborative art project, discuss techniques on how to get mixed-aged artists working together, and how to handle disagreements during the process. Participants will learn the benefits of creating collaboratively and take home examples of collaborative art programming to try in the classroom. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddler, preschool, PreK-3, and special education


Inclusion Panel: Working as a Team to Support Children with Special Needs

Join a panel of experts and professionals currently working to serve children with special needs and their families. Panelists come from CDS, Woodfords Family Services, NAEYC Accredited Centers and include parents of children with special needs. Please come to this session with questions, concerns and topics of discussion so our panel and other participants can come together to address the challenges and successes of meeting the needs of these children in our programs. Target Audience: Teachers of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, PreK-3, special education, and administrators


Can We Use Technology to Build & Strengthen Relationships? (the session will run twice, with a different focus each time, choose your preference)

Bonnie Blagojevic and Andrea Mercado

How can we deepen understanding of what children are thinking and feeling, to help community members better understand each child? Are there new strategies teachers can add to their toolboxes to help young children develop self-esteem, increase access to learning, express their creative ideas and strengthen family partnerships? If, as Faith Rogow suggests, “... our job isn't to prepare children for our past. It's to get them ready for their future”, how can we help children and families learn to use digital tools in ways that are healthy and beneficial-that will support their social and emotional development? We will include research informed guidance on these topics and share stories from PreK and K classrooms using mobile devices to strengthen these kinds of early learning opportunities for children. Participants will leave with a variety of resources to explore if they would like to learn more. Target Audience: teachers and leaders in PreK and Kindergarten.

Focus: In the Classroom
In this session, we will try out some of the activities mentioned related to using technology in the classroom and discuss how to move from theory to practice- make an “action plan” to use in your classroom or school.

Focus: Family Partnerships
In this session, we will try out some of the activities mentioned related to partnering with families, and discuss how to move from theory to practice- make an “action plan” to connect home and school.


Speech Language Disorders: How to Recognize & When to Refer

Laurie Mack

Speech-Language delay/disorder is the number one handicapping condition in preschool children.  Children who struggle with the development of speech and language are at a higher risk for difficulty learning to read.  Helping them access support prior to age five is critical to their ability to be ready for kindergarten and ready to read.  This workshop will describe the types of delays most commonly observed in preschool children and how to make decisions about the need for referral for further evaluation.  Tips for talking with parents will also be shared. Target Audience: Infant, Toddler, Preschool, PreK Teachers, Special Education Teachers, Directors and Administrators


Social Media Communication with Families

Sasha Shunk

Do you ever feel your newsletters and daily sheets just aren't being read? Do you find families are leaving the sheets in the mailbox or just tossing in the trash? There is another way to connect! This session will help you connect with families using responsible social media. Strong family/teacher partnerships help to deepen connections with the children and informational posts help bring awareness to the importance of our profession. We'll go over the do's and don'ts of posting on social media and tackle how to create policies on staff and family contact on social media. We’ll discuss what types of posts will yield the most impact and likely to create discussion among families. We'll examine who else will benefit from your posts, such as extended family members and other teachers. We will consider the importance of a media release form, you will leave the session with an example you can modify for your use. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK, and administrators and leaders

Outdoor Play Environments and Social Emotional Learning

Rhonda Kaiser

Naturalized outdoor learning environments stimulate the diversity of children's play experience and contribute to their healthy development.  In this session we will discuss the benefits of connecting children to nature and share examples of simple ways to naturalize outdoor learning environments in early learning environments.  We will explore the social and emotional learning that takes place during outdoor play. What are we observing? How can the environment and our interactions with children promote and extend this learning? Hands-on activities will be used to stimulate participants thinking about outdoor learning environments. Target Audience: teachers of infants, toddlers, preschool, PreK-K, and administrators


Presenter Bios

Jane Benesch has more than 30 years of experience as an early childhood teacher, curriculum developer, cooperating teacher, supervisor and trainer. She views herself as a teacher/researcher because there is no one-size-fits-all method for teaching and teacher training.  She currently serves as a trainer for Maine Roads to Quality.

Bonnie Blagojevic is an education consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator. She is a consulting editor for NAEYC, has co-authored articles for NAEYC publications, and has been involved with the NAEYC Technology & Young Children Interest Forum for many years. Bonnie has more than 30 years experience as an early education professional working in a variety of settings, including a high school lab preschool, a university preschool program, a family child care home, and nonprofit center. As a consultant, she collaborates with program partners to explore ways technology can increase access to early learning. She shares “lessons learned” through workshops and publications.

Laina Clugston, M.A., works at Bowdoin College Children’s Center where she is a lead teacher in the Infant and Toddler Programs. Laina is active in the Center’s staff development and provides support, mentoring and training. She lives in South Freeport, Maine and is formerly from the Washington D.C. area, where she served on the faculty of Acorn Hill Waldorf Nursery and Kindergarten as a Parent Child/Infant and Toddler teacher. In addition to her Waldorf/Pikler training, Laina is a Simplicity Parenting Coach, student of Jungian psychology, and is currently in the advanced training program at the Neufeld Institute.

Miriam Dodge has over 20 years of experience working with children and families including home visiting. I currently work for KVCAP as a HomeBased Supervisor.  Her passion is supporting others that work and interact with children and families. She is a National Certified Gold Star Speaker with Communication Across Barriers (Donna Beegle) and also a MRBN Community Resilience Facilitator.  Miriam helps to bring perspective to others about the impacts of trauma in someone's life as well as the Importance of strong relationships and community building. She shares perspective about individuals and families living in the crisis of poverty.

Martha Eshoo, Ed.M. is the director of the Bowdoin College Children’s Center where continuity of care, nature-oriented, play-based curriciulum, and parent-teacher partnerships are part of the center’s hallmarks.  She has been part of the full-time faculty at Wheelock College and currently is an instructor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at the University of New Hampshire. The focus of her work is in building healthy environments for children birth – five years so that they will flourish in group care settings.  

Leigh Ann Fish, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Maine Farmington. She received her doctorate from Miami University (Ohio). Leigh Ann has worked in public education as a National Board Certified K-3 teacher and a K-12 Gifted & Talented Coordinator. Her professional interests include young gifted children, girls and gender issues, Reggio-inspired practices, critical theory/equity literacy, play, and nature-based education. A seasoned advocate for young children, she currently serves on the Maine AEYC Governing Board. When not working, Leigh Ann enjoys spending time with her family as they imagine, dream, play, and create on their 18th century farm.

Robin Holman is a District Early Childhood and Youth Coordinator in Kennebec and Somerset counties.  She is a veteran early childhood educator with over 25years experience working with young children and their families.  One of her roles at Maine Roads to Quality Early Care and Education Professional Development Network is to provide On-Site Consultation to childcare providers in different capacities.  She is dedicated to building environments that support the highest and best experiences for staff and children. She enjoys nature, yoga, and reading children’s books. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is to read to young children. She hopes to inspire and support those who work with children. She is interested in mindfulness, nature based education, children's play, and education of the whole child. With over 24 years in public education as a kindergarten teacher, Robin holds a M.Ed in elementary education and Ed.D in early childhood education.

Rhonda Kaiser is the Educare Central Maine School Director.  She has a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development and Family Relations and a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education.  She has been working in the field for over 20 years. She recently worked with a licensed landscape architect to design a natural playground at Educare Central Maine.

Katherine Kempe is Senior Director for Professional Recognition and Advancement with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) where she leads Power to the Profession, a national collaboration to establish a unified framework for the early learning profession. Kat’s previous experience includes working in Minnesota’s early learning community with a focus on community engagement and elevating the voices of parents and early learning professionals at the state Capitol. As Senior Policy Advocate at Think Small, a multi-service nonprofit supporting Minnesota’s early learning community, Kat served as the grassroots manager for a successful statewide campaign to increase public resources to support high quality early learning.  Kat is driven by a passion to create policies and systems that lead to the optimal environments to support the healthy development of children and the adults who care for them.

Laurie L. Mack, MA, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the Executive Director of Northeast Hearing and Speech. She is a Hanen Certified Trainer for Early Childhood Educators and a faculty member of the UNE LEND program.  She has provided numerous trainings both at the local and national level. Laurie is an active member of the Portland Connect Ed Starting Strong Committee and the Westbrook Children’s Project, both community initiatives to improve kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading levels.  Her work in the community has focused on supporting parents, ECEs, and teachers in facilitating language and literacy with preschool children.

Heather Marden has been teaching in the field of early childhood education for 16 years.  She obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Maine at Farmington.  Currently, she works as an educator at Birchwood Day Nursery School where she teaches 4 year olds and works with the K-3rd grade after school program. Heather is the current Vice President and Public Policy Chair of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. She is passionate about reinforcing the importance of relationships among her students and strives to give each child an opportunity to be successful members of her programs.

Tara McDonald is a Clinical Social Worker with her MSW from UNE ‘2012’. She has over 10 years of experience in early childhood education, ranging from teaching, administration, clinical experience and consultation.Tara has done a great deal of training in brain-based neuroscience, influencing her ability to support both parents and professions in understanding child behavior. Tara is a parent of two young children. She enjoys her experience as a mother and appreciates how this influences and informs her within her practice. Currently, Tara is in private practice in Scarborough, working with children and families.

Andrea Mercado is a current doctoral student in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on English learner education. She has over 20 years of experience working education from grades K-16. She is also the current state representative for National Network for Early Language Learning and advocates for the teaching of multiple languages from an early age.

Lily O'Brien (BA Art History with French Minor from Skidmore College) is an Educator at the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine. Lily has been lucky enough to work with parents and children for many years in museums, camps, and classrooms. She has worked in a one room schoolhouse, spent summers leading an art and social justice camp in Transylvania, Romania, organized a farm camp for Maine’s youngest farmers, and started a sewing initiative to support subsistence farmers in Eastern Europe. Lily believes in the worth and dignity of each child and seeks to make the world a better place for our children.

Sasha Shunk, of Shunk Child Care, has been a family child care provider for 15 years and is nationally accredited through NAFCC. In 2015, Shunk Child Care became the first in the State to obtain Outdoor Classroom Certification through Nature Explore. Shunk Child Care is also a certified Eco-Healthy Child Care and a Let's Go 5210 Gold Site. Sasha holds an A.S. in Early Childhood Education, and a Maine State Inclusion Credential.