When my team and I got on the plane to return home from Chicago after attending the first InterAct: A CLASS Summit, we felt a renewed sense of excitement.
There were attendees from 34 states and 10 countries. The Summit had so many informative sessions between the bookends of an enthusiastic opening keynote and the reflective closing keynote—it was exactly what we were looking for!
Teachstone’s CEO, Rebecca Berlin, kicked off the Summit with an introduction to InterAct. Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, former Director of Office of Head Start, talked about the importance of teacher-child interactions. Dr. Bridget Hamre, co-founder of Teachstone, presented using a seed metaphor to paint the current early childhood landscape, which was engaging and meaningful.
On day 1, I decided to attend the "State Stories" track. From First 5 California’s pilot implementation using myTeachstone to Georgia DECAL’s implementation of MMCI and MTP to Arizona’s journey with the CLASS system, the sessions covered a ton of ground from the West Coast to East Coast. After my presentation about the entire CLASS family of tools moving into our QRIS, I attended the heartwarming presentation by Washington D.C.’s Briya Charter School on their work with dual language learners using CLASS.
It was fun chatting with the attendees during breakfast and lunch. I never thought I would run into people from Chile, Quebec, and Kansas—all in one place!
Day 2 began with a great conversation between Teachstone’s COO Mike Benzian and Dr. Bob Pianta, co-founder of Teachstone. I found the session on how to complete CLASS observations when infants and toddlers are in the same classroom and Arizona’s presentation about CLASS in the context of special needs children extremely informative. The icing on the cake of Tuesday’s sessions was the presentation on the triangular effect of using CLASS, Teaching Strategies GOLD, and Creative Curriculum.
The Summit ended with a reflective dialogue facilitated by Dr. Debra Pacchiano of the Ounce of Prevention and two coaches from her organization about the role of instructional leadership and trusting relationships in program improvement and delivering on the promise of CLASS.
We learned a ton, had many great conversations, and interacted with a great community of CLASS professionals. Our key takeaway? Teacher-child interactions matter!
Padma Rajan works as VP of programs, research, and evaluation for the Early Learning Coalition of Duval in Jacksonville, FL. She has spearheaded and facilitated the implementation of Guiding Stars of Duval, the Quality Rating and Improvement System in Duval County, for the past decade. Padma is a Teachstone ambassador, and has worked in the field of early childhood and elementary education for over 20 years. She is also a CPA, and she spent a decade crunching numbers prior to her work in education.
A year ago, urged on by my insightful new colleague, Manda Klein, who was born and raised in Texas, I wrote a blog entitled, At Our Core. It praised the bipartisan efforts to discontinue the practice of separating children from their parents and caregivers at our country’s borders.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
On a hot summer day in July 2016, I had the good fortune of being the one not on vacation on our small policy and research team. Instead, I went to DC to serve as Teachstone’s representative for a convening of policymakers, researchers, and ECE practitioners. They were gathering to discuss if and how exemplary Head Start grantees might be identified for Leading by Exemplar, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Bellwether Education Partners.