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Early Childhood Education Conference

Igniting ‘fire that creates love of learning’

Testing new art techniques for the classroom are (from left) teacher Jennifer Go Miller Photography

Testing new art techniques for the classroom are (from left) teacher Jennifer Gordon of PS 52 in Brooklyn; paraprofessional Lizette Rodriguez of PS 196 in Brooklyn; UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford, the conference organizer; and teacher Cynthia Rojas of PS 171 in Manhattan.

Dr. Michelle Bodden-White, a former UFT vice president for elementary schools wh Miller Photography

Dr. Michelle Bodden-White, a former UFT vice president for elementary schools who launched the conference 10 years ago, was presented with the Abe Levine Award.

Paraprofessional Schneider Cardenas (left) of PS 196 in Brooklyn, teacher Fred W Miller Photography

Paraprofessional Schneider Cardenas (left) of PS 196 in Brooklyn, teacher Fred Watson of PS 246 in the Bronx and teacher Deborah Grinnard of PS 31 on Staten Island share ideas in a workshop about creating more visually stimulating presentations using Prezi software.

There’s a big difference between a gummy worm and a real earthworm, and what better way to explain that to young learners than to bring both into the classroom?

Sandra Perez, a science teacher at PS 1 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, said the idea, presented in the Every Living Thing Great and Small workshop, was a great way to energize science instruction for young learners. “I like the idea of using a worm template to write down questions,” said Perez. “It’s warm and playful.”

Perez was one of the 600 teachers, paraprofessionals and parents who participated in the UFT’s 10th annual Early Childhood Education Conference on March 11 at UFT headquarters. This year’s theme was “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead!” encompassing science, technology, engineering, art and math for the youngest learners.

“I’d like the people in Washington, D.C., to see this room,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, surveying the overflow crowd in Shanker Hall. “We’ll do anything as long as it will help kids.”

Karen Alford, the UFT vice president for elementary schools and the conference organizer, urged participants to take what they learned in the workshops back to the classroom. “We can ignite the fire that creates a love of learning and has an effect for many years to come,” she said.

Conference attendees selected two 90-minute workshops to attend from among 16 choices.

For Carmela McCann, a science teacher and chapter leader at PS 198 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, the workshop on using Prezi software to make classroom presentations more visually exciting was inspiring. But she also liked the low-tech Tangrams, colorful cardboard tiles to tell stories or illustrate a geometry lesson. “I came out of it with things I can use,” McCann said.

Catherine Lipkin, a teacher at PS 149 in Harlem, said the workshop Many Language Levels: One Classroom helped clarify the new standards for bilingual students. “I teach prekindergarten and kindergarten, and I have African students who speak Urdu and French,” she said. “The workshop explained how to scaffold instruction for each child, from emergent to proficient, in reading and writing.”

Nancy DePrizio, a pre-K teacher at PS 4 on Staten Island, has her paper outfit tMiller PhotographyNancy DePrizio, a pre-K teacher at PS 4 on Staten Island, has her paper outfit tailor-made in a workshop, with the help of Katrina Monzon (left), a paraprofessional at PS 15 in Manhattan, and parents Sandra Hidalgo and Joanna Zapato from PS 12 in the Bronx.

Janet Filemyr, a pre-K teacher at PS 372 in Gowanus, Brooklyn, said the Mother May I? workshop gave her ideas she is eager to try out in class. “I like the idea of breaking up the routine with a game of ‘Mother May I?’ or ‘Red Light–Green Light 123,’” Filemyr said. “It also teaches them to pay attention and to learn impulse control.”

Dr. Michelle Bodden-White, a former UFT vice president for elementary education who launched the conference 10 years ago, received the Abe Levine Award. “The beginning of understanding all science and technology is curiosity and allowing space and time for that curiosity,” she said. “Let children have the opportunity to explore and wonder and figure it out.”

The steel pan band from Brownsville’s PS 156, which performed at the first Early Childhood Conference, opened this year’s conference with a performance under the direction of music teacher Sensai Jackie. Students from the Queens School for Leadership and Excellence also sang, danced and played the keyboard under the direction of Farrah Padro, the music teacher and chapter leader.

See more photos in the gallery »

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