Reflections on the NAEYC Professional Learning Institute
Author: Liz Goddard
In June, the Professional Learning Collaborative (PLC) facilitators and leaders (along with our friends at Wyoming Kids First and some awesome Wyoming educators) made the trek to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend and present at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Professional Learning Institute (PLI). As learners, we could hear new ideas, be inspired by great leaders in our field, and challenge ourselves to dig deeper in our work. As facilitators, we got to share our story of the PLC and, more importantly, YOUR story of the amazing going on in Wyoming. And people showed up! People showed up on a Monday at 8:00 am to hear about how educators in Wyoming are transforming their work through reflective, collaborative, and ongoing professional learning. People showed up on a late Tuesday afternoon to hear how Wyoming educators have shared their voices to create new standards for early childhood learning. People showed up and were inspired by you!
This year was my first opportunity to attend an in-person NAEYC conference. I quickly discovered that I had some work to do as a learner. For the past three years with the PLC, we have been fortunate to be led by and learn from our heroes in the field. Our friends at Leading for Children have modeled how to connect with educators we work with. Debbie Lee Keenan has stretched our thinking and understanding of anti-bias education. Nikki Baldwin, our leader (our boss lady, as she hates to be called), has reflection questions that always seem to hit each of us individually on where we need to grow. Learning and growth have become almost automatic, without much work from me. At the conference, I found myself out of practice as a learner.
What does it take to be a good learner? How do I elevate my practice through my learning? At the conference, the other facilitators and I had to reevaluate how we approached our own learning. With one of her great reflection questions, Nikki Baldwin asked us to take a deeper look at ourselves as learners at the conference. I found I lacked the curiosity to dig deeper on subjects that interest me. Others noticed they were forgetting to reclaim time to think and reflect for their own understanding. Most of us had felt the value in the relationships we were building and the conversations we were having during and after our conference sessions. We realized that we needed to approach our learning in the same way Wyoming early childhood educators have been dedicated to their learning in recent years.
Wyoming early childhood educators have transformed their learning. Our Wyoming educators have taken on complex subjects, like anti-bias education, and instead of running, they have turned toward the hard things. These educators have come together to fight isolation and collaborate with other educators across the state. They have been curious about their learning and have reflected on their practices. The landscape of Wyoming's early childhood systems is changing because Wyoming educators are putting in the time and the hard work to learn and elevate their practices. Because of the hard work of our educators, Wyoming is being noticed
on a national level. People showed up to our PLI session to hear about professional learning in Wyoming because our educators have shown up to transform their learning. It changed my conference experience when I decided to learn as our Wyoming educators learn.
Author: Kelce Eckhardt
This June, I had the opportunity to attend the NAEYC’s Professional Learning Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. It was such a fantastic experience for many reasons! First, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a facilitator. Second, it was meaningful for my professional learning to be there discussing topics with peers around the nation. Third, it was an amazing experience to be there with my colleagues learning and collaborating together.
During the PLI, I attended many sessions that I was able to learn and grow from. I enjoyed every minute of these sessions and conversations. Specifically, I want to point out two sessions that strongly impacted me. The first was “Whose Knowledge is Valued? Growing and Sustaining a Diverse Group of Leaders, Mentors, and Coaches,” presented by Marilyn Chu and Kimberly Sopher- Dunn. I appreciated this session because it went into depth about relationship-based professional learning and focusing on the individuals you work with. The other session I would like to mention was “Hearing All Voices! Fostering Equity and Culturally Responsive Strategies Through Coaching,” by Erika Flores. The coaching model, Culturally Responsive Coaching for Sustained, Long-Term Change, was presented in this session. This model focuses on genuinely getting to know the individuals you work with and creating long-term outcomes. As the conference went on, I started making connections between the sessions that were the most impactful to me. The common thread that I saw in these sessions focused on people first. The discussions I participated in at the conference solidified the importance of putting people first in the work; we each have our own story, background, traditions, beliefs, and values. We were showing that culture is individual. As we strive to impact others, putting them first as people is how we can create authentic, meaningful learning experiences. To do that, we must first learn about each person as an individual.
The WYECPLC had the opportunity to share their story during the conference! This was an extremely exciting session. We shared the story of our Wyoming educators by telling our story. During this process, it was meaningful to see how each region in our state differs. Each facilitator tries their best to connect to the people in their region. This again highlighted the importance of knowing the individuals we serve. When listening to the reflections on the experience, it was evident that as the WYECPLC we strive to make our work centered on the educators.
As facilitators, we tried to make our experience there the most impactful it could be for the regions we work with. As we learned and our minds were stretched, we all reflected on how honored we were to serve the early childhood field in our state, how outstanding the educators in Wyoming are.