CEHD Plays Key Role in Early Childhood Education Conference
An endeavor aimed at supporting early educators who work with young children in the Brazos Valley finally came to fruition. After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brazos Valley chapter of the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children (TXAEYC) held its first conference on Saturday, April 9.
The College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University co-sponsored the event and played a pivotal role in providing early childhood education practitioners in the Bryan-College Station area with research and strategies they could use in the classroom.
Dr. Hope Gerde, Professor with the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC) was among the CEHD faculty, staff and graduate students who spoke at the conference.
“We have really amazing faculty at Texas A&M, who are all focusing on early childhood education from multiple different perspectives, including working with language and literacy to children with special needs to social-emotional development,” said Dr. Gerde.
The Blinn College District also co-sponsored the event, hosted it at its campus in Bryan and provided speakers from their Early Childhood Education Program teaching staff. “I think we can make a huge difference by providing high-quality professional development and training to the early childhood professionals in this area,” said Amy Jones, Program Coordinator for the Early Childhood Education program at Blinn College.
Over 150 practitioners attended the conference, which began with an Open House of the recently completed outdoor learning environment at Texas A&M’s Becky Gates Children’s Center on Friday evening. The full conference day on Saturday started with an All-CEHD panel of faculty and graduate students from TLAC and the Department of Educational Psychology (EPSY).
“We’re all researchers, well respected in our field. We’re building a broader understanding in our fields, but also, how we apply that and make it meaningful to the community,” said Dr. Julie Thompson, Assistant Professor with EPSY and one of the CEHD faculty members who took part in the panel.
CEHD doctoral students Flora Harmon and Erica Ritter represent the Brazos Valley chapter of TXAEYC and presented classroom sessions during the conference. They noticed the excitement participants showed at this event.
“You see the desire for this kind of connection, collaboration and education because a lot of early childhood educators are passionate about what they do,” said Harmon.
Ritter, who is also Director of the Becky Gates Children’s Center, added, “I saw many educators taking pictures and thinking, ‘I’m going to send this to my [student’s] family.’ That may make someone say, ‘I want to participate. I want to go to this training.’”
Dr. Jodi Nerren, who is an Extension Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, was a founding member of the revitalization of the Brazos Valley chapter of TXAEYC, which originated more than 30 years ago. Recent efforts, made in part by members of CEHD, led to April’s conference.
“Getting involved with an organization like [the Brazos Valley chapter of TXAEYC] allows researchers to not only disseminate results of their research to practitioners but build connections within the local early childhood community, providing support and developing collaborative relationships,” said Dr. Marc Goodrich, Assistant Professor in TLAC and one of the presenters at this year’s conference.
Dr. Sharon Jackson, who co-chaired the conference and promoted early childhood education while working at College Station ISD, stressed CEHD’s role in this event.
“Faculty and staff are doing the cutting-edge research. They’re going to keep this current. They’re going to be collaborators in a variety of ways. So [CEHD] is hugely important and that connection between early education and higher education is right there,” she said.
CEHD’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Education with an Early Childhood-3 Certification. 123 total credit hours for those looking to make a difference early in children’s learning development.
Dr. Jeffrey Liew, Professor and Associate Dean for Research in CEHD, said the College has always had faculty members who are invested in promoting early childhood education and children’s development. He sees CEHD’s recent efforts in this area as a sign of things to come.
“We are finally moving toward achieving a critical mass and have clusters of faculty with expertise in early education and development. This will enhance and accelerate our collective efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, and families in Texas and beyond,” he said.
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