Professional Development

Through its professional development programs, the Collaboration fosters a community-wide commitment to high-quality early learning and care programs in Oak Park.

at the annual Symposium

Recent Accomplishments

Three hundred and twenty-three early learning professionals, including teachers, directors, developmental therapists, and parents participated in the Collaboration’s 13th Annual Symposium, Turning Obstacles into Opportunities: Navigating the Tough Stuff. Twenty-three different workshops were offered to encourage providers to look at challenges in a different way and move from point A to point B smoothly.

The Symposium provided play stations for attendees to learn and walk out with hands-on activities that they could implement on Monday morning when they re-entered their classrooms. The keynote address was delivered by the inspiring Holly Elissa Bruno.
The Collaboration provided professional development training to 146 early childhood professionals from preschools, child care centers, and family child care programs. These trainings help directors and staff engage in and meet requirements of ExceleRate Illinois, the new quality rating system for early childhood programs.
The Collaboration continued to provide coaching to preschools, child care centers, and family child care programs that plan to engage in the ExceleRate Program for the first time or need to renew an existing rating.


A signature event of the Collaboration, each February our annual Symposium provides an arena for educators, caregivers, parents, and anyone who works with young children to gain knowledge, perspective and practical skills in promoting positive learning experiences. Designed to be interactive and to promote networking amongst attendees, the Symposium includes a keynote address by a noted authority on that year's theme and it offers a wide range of workshops.

More information, including presentation materials and handouts from past Symposiums, can be found here.

Directors Round Table

Strong programs need strong leaders. The Collaboration convenes the Directors Round Table to foster a professional community that supports quality improvement in child care centers and preschools. Directors from a wide range of early childhood programs participate in facilitated meetings to share concerns, engage in problem-solving, and engage in peer learning opportunities and training on topics of mutual interest. The Directors Round Table meets six times per year.

Family Child Care Providers Round Table

Family child care providers are a vital component of the early childhood system of programs and services. The Collaboration convenes the Family Child Care providers Round Table to foster a professional community that supports each other and quality improvement in family child care settings. Family child care providers engage in problem-solving, and in peer learning opportunities and training topics of mutual interest and to support their engagement in the Illinois ExceleRate Quality Rating system.
Penny Williams-Wolford

Professional Development Advising

Strong programs need committed staff. The Collaboration provides group and individual advising and guidance to early childhood staff interested in furthering their education and training. This includes support in accessing the Illinois Gateways Scholarship Program, Illinois Professional Development Funds, Great Start and the Illinois Career Lattice.

Penny Williams-Wolford is wonderful and very knowledgeable!

The Collaboration works with directors of early childhood care and education programs to support the development of a professional development planning process. The Collaboration connects early learning staff at child care centers, preschools, family child care homes and other early learning providers to the Illinois Professional Development Advising Program.

Contact Penny Williams-Wolford for more information.


The Collaboration provides a series of workshops each year to Oak Park and River Forest early childhood care and education programs. Topics for the series have included Developmentally Appropriate Practices, Play, Early Literacy and Early Math Skills, Introduction to ExceleRate Illinois, and Social-Emotional Development.

ExceleRate Illinois (Illinois’s quality rating system for early learning programs)

ExceleRate Illinois is a statewide quality rating and improvement system designed to make continuous quality improvement an everyday priority among early learning providers. The program establishes standards for helping infants, toddlers and preschool age children develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. It provides a framework for early learning professionals to identify opportunities for improvement, increase their skills and take steps to make positive changes. Early learning programs are awarded quality ratings of green, bronze, silver and gold to provide parents with an objective way to make quality a part of their decision making when selecting a program for their children. The ratings are broadly publicized.

The Collaboration provides training, coaching and technical assistance to early childhood programs in Oak Park and River Forest to support their engagement in ExceleRate.

Professional Development Resources

The Collaboration has compiled a list of early childhood professional development websites. View or download curricula, research, information for families with special needs, or find training opportunities.

Visit the Professional Development Resource Library.