February 10, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
Emboldened early childhood educators attending the Early Childhood Winter Conference spent Saturday, Feb. 1 being energized by local leaders who said their lives were molded by the influence of their teachers.
View photos: https://tinyurl.com/ECWC20
Introduced by famed children’s author Peter Reynolds, upheld by Harris County School Superintendent James Colbert Jr. and affirmed by conference namesake Raymond T. Garcia, the positive influence of the early childhood teachers was unshakeable.
“I can think of the things preschool teachers instill in you, and those basic, sound principles grow with you,” said Garcia, former HCDE Board president and trustee and retired businessman. “That’s why I come each year to tell these teachers how important they are. It comes naturally to thank them.”
The 34th annual R.T. Garcia Early Childhood Winter Conference hosted by Harris County Department of Education is a tradition for generations of early childhood educators. Both longtime and first-time attendees talked about the tools they garnered from the daylong event.
Kamaria Price teaches pre-k at Martin Luther King Early Childhood Center. She is a third-year attendee who says the conference inspires, refocuses and rejuvenates.
“This conference is the best place to go to get pumped and excited,” she said. “The best thing I get out of this is collaboration with other teachers, plus the tips I get for my classroom are from some of the best educators around.”
HCDE Superintendent Colbert told the educators about a little-known character trait they possess: the ability to see and nurture a child’s soul.
“To see in children what their own parents might not see—to believe in them and to come on a Saturday so you can get better at what you do—is amazing,” he said. “Our world is troubled in many ways, but education is a powerful thing. The world will get better because we believe in our children.”
Following keynote sessions with Reynolds and bilingual keynote musical educator Gilberto Soto, teachers chose from 50 breakout sessions throughout the conference day. Teaching and Learning Center curriculum directors supplied workshops alongside other area education experts. Vendor showcases lined the conference hallways, providing an interactive presence with materials, activities, games and services.
First-year teacher and conference goer Sheila Muzuranic of Sundown Elementary in Katy ISD said she can’t wait to put all the new resources she gained into practice in her classroom.
“I can’t wait to see how my kids will react to all the engaging activities,” she said. “I’m loving it so far.”
Conference coordinator Andrea Segraves shared with educators that this year’s conference theme, “Love Lifts You Up,” originated from the core values promoted by Reynolds through his prose.
“Look at the love in this room,” Reynolds said, motioning to the 800 teachers. “I’m a romantic and an optimist.
“It’s not a pretty world out there, but the kids can be the change. Let’s connect the dots.”
(The next Early Childhood Winter Conference will be held Jan. 30, 2021. Look for more information at www.hcde-texas.org.)