2021 Early Childhood Symposium

This year’s Early Childhood Symposium theme focused on the role of empathy and compassion in early childhood. Workshops and keynote addresses explored why compassion is important in the classroom, and how to nurture self-care in yourself to be the best early childhood educator you can be. 

The 2021 Symposium took place virtually on February 27, 2021. To learn about future Symposia, subscribe to our newsletter

This annual gathering provides an opportunity for anyone who works with young children – educators, caregivers, and parents – to gain knowledge, perspective, practical skills and tools for supporting all young children. Take a look at the 2021 Early Childhood Brochure here

Registration Fees

Registration for the 2021 Virtual Early Childhood Symposium is now open

Symposium Registration Fees: $45 Attendee Registration Fee paid online by February 15, 2020. Online registration and payment is highly encouraged. However, if you need to pay via check, please contact info@collab4kids.org or call 708-613-6122 for detailed instructions. No refunds provided for any circumstance.

Please note that space is limited and registering early is highly encouraged. 

Scholarships are available: To apply, visit our Joan White Scholarship application page.

Information about Credits

Educators who attend the Early Childhood Symposium are eligible to receive three types of credits:
  • Gateways Credits — Symposium participants can earn 1.5 hours of credit per workshop and 1 hour per keynote speaker. Gateways Credentials are symbols of professional achievement that validate knowledge, skills and experience. They are awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Bureau of Child Care and Development. They are required for some Circles of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois and can be used to help with employment decisions in early learning programs. Learn more about Gateways credentials.
  • PD Clock Hours/CPDUs — CPDU stands for Continuing Professional Development Unit. This professional development is a credit that educators, teachers, and school support services personnel must complete to maintain their certification. The Collaboration for Early Childhood’s Early Childhood Symposium is an approved professional development event. Participants will need to provide their IEIN (Illinois Educator Identification Number) to receive this credit.

Directions for Registration and Signing Up for Workshops


1. To register, click the button at the top of this page, or register here. You will be directed to Socio, the virtual symposium platform, to purchase your ticket and you will be guided through the registration process. (Students, please scroll down to see instructions on how to redeem the student discount at registration).

2. Once you complete registration and purchase your ticket, you will receive a confirmation email from “Socio Team.” In that email, click on the link where it says “In order to create your account, please follow the link here.

3. You will be taken to a page that looks like this:

Click on “Access the Web App.”

4. You will be asked to login using the email address and password that you used to register.

If you are a student, you will need to send a copy of your student I.D. or other proof of enrollment to info@collab4kids.org before registering. Once our team confirms you are a student, you will receive and email with a promo code. Navigate to the main registration page and add the promo code where it says “Enter Code” (see example below.) Then, follow the general instructions above to complete registration. 

Signing Up for Workshops

Once you’ve logged in, take a look around the virtual platform and browse the workshops you would like to attend by clicking on the “Workshops” tab.   

Once you are ready to sign up for a workshop, click the + button next to the session you would like to attend.

You can see the workshops you’ve selected by clicking on the “My Agenda” tab. 

Scholarship Opportunity

The Joan White Scholarship was created to provide early care professionals, providers, and parents an opportunity to attend the Symposium, build skills and become leaders in the early childhood arena. The application for the 2021 Joan White Scholarship is now closed.

Check back next year to apply for the Joan White Scholarship for the 2022 Symposium.  

Full Day Schedule

The Symposium will run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. this year, and will be virtual.

  • 7:45: Virtual Rooms Open
  • 8:00 – 9:30: Early Bird Workshops
  • 9:45 – 11:15: Morning Workshops
  • 11:30 – 12:45
    • Lunch & Learn Keynote Welcome: Becki Streit, Board Chair, Collaboration for Early Childhood
    • Introduction of Keynote Speaker: Amy Cardin, Co-Chair of the Collaboration for Early Childhood Professional Development Committee
    • Keynote: Kristin Neff – Self Compassion: Caring for other without losing yourself
    • Announcements: John Borrero, Executive Director, Collaboration for Early Childhood
  • 1:00 – 2:30: Afternoon Workshops
  • 2:45 – 4:00:
    • Afternoon Energizer Keynote: Rachel Giannini – Because: The Moment I Was Called

    Keynote Speakers

    We are thrilled to have two keynote speakers this year: Kristin Neff and Rachel Giannini. Learn more about what these two inspiring individuals will address in their keynotes.

    Dr. Kristin Neff 
    Self-Compassion: Caring for others without losing yourself 
    Self-compassion involves treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend we care about. This talk will present theory and research on self-compassion, which burgeoning empirical literature has shown to be powerfully associated with psychological wellbeing. We will also discuss the crucial role that self-compassion plays for caregivers in order to reduce stress and burnout. A brief self-compassion practice will be taught.

    Kristin Neff is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self-compassion over fifteen years ago. In addition to writing numerous academic articles and book chapters on the topic, she is author of the book “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself,” released by William Morrow. In conjunction with her colleague Dr. Chris Germer, she has developed an empirically supported training program called Mindful Self-Compassion, which is taught by thousands of teachers worldwide. The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook is now available by Guilford, as well as Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program: A Guide for Professionals. Her newest work focuses on how to balance self-acceptance with the power of fierce self-compassion. In June 2021, Harper Wave will publish Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive.

    For more information on self-compassion, including a self-compassion test, research articles, practices, and Dr. Neff’s teaching schedule, go to www.self-compassion.org.

    Rachel Giannini
    Afternoon Energizer Keynote – Because: The Moment I Was Called

    Every week over 11 million children under the age of five spend over 34 hours a week in the care of someone other than a parent. At the same time, brain research tells us that over 80% of a child’s brain is developed before they enter kindergarten. At the
    intersection of these two points resides early childhood educators. In this interactive keynote, participants reflect on the reason they entered the field and the drive that keeps them going. Through data and personal stories, participants explore techniques
    for advocating for themselves and the field of early childhood education.

    Rachel Giannini has an extreme enthusiasm for all things early childhood and believes in the power of play, getting dirty, climbing trees, star gazing, pretending, and the idea that learning is magical. She strives to make better citizens through encouragement, love, and teaching equality and creates content which hits all early learning standards while being engaging, memorable, outside of the box, and most of all FUN!

    Our Sponsors


    Gateways Registry Approved Event; EI credit and PD Clock Hours available.

     Everyone is welcome to attend any workshop. 

    Note about Double Sessions: Workshops denoted as a Double Session require the attendee to sign up for both sessions. Each session will cover different materials and practices offering attendees a deeper understanding of the subject matter.  

    Early Bird Workshops (Choose One) - 8:00 - 9:30 AM

    Early Bird (A)
    You Said What? Untangling Communication with Infants and Toddlers and Their Families
    This session introduces practical strategies from the revised NAEYC Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice (2020). Participants will explore the social, linguistic and cultural contributions to development and why understanding these is essential to effective communication, teaching, and decision-making. They will see how authentic reciprocal relationships require a new level of knowing families and including them in decision-making and practice. Most importantly, participants will discover how individualized teaching can solve behavior, sleep, feeding, and learning challenges.
    Marie Masterson – McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership

    Early Bird (B)
    The 5Cs: Nurturing Children Through Change
    Children need their grown-ups’ attention now more than ever, but with so many demands on our time, parents, caregivers and educators are left wondering how this is possible. Together, we’ll learn and interpret a framework for maximizing nurture through everyday moments to promote well-being for children and adults!
    Jesse Ilhardt – VOCEL

    Early Bird (C)
    SELling Self-Regulation and Mental Health: Social/Emotional Learning in Early Childhood through Music and Movement
    With the needs of teachers and children changing for this upcoming school year, we realize now more than ever how important a social emotional approach to learning is. Attendees will learn techniques and strategies to effectively integrate social/emotional learning into their daily curriculum through FUNctional music and movement activities!
    Alyssa Stone – Dynamic Lynks

    Early Bird (D) and PM (U)
    Changing the way we look at Challenging Behaviors
    Managing student’s challenging behaviors is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching today. We need to ‘teach’ teachers to be proactive rather than reactive in their discipline techniques. By the end of this workshop, participants will:

    • Learn to identify classroom environmental issues contributing to challenging behaviors
    • Learn to objectively describe child’s behavior using the ABC chart
    • Learn positive strategies for decreasing challenging behaviors
    • Create and implement a behavior plan
    • Understand the roles and responsibilities of the teacher
    • Judi Gibian-Mennenga – JGM Consulting

      Early Bird (E) and AM (L)
      Quick Effective Practices for Getting to Compassion
      Clean compassionate energy from adults is key for optimizing the positive potential of any moment with children – and with other adults. This workshop is designed to increase our ability to create and access our clean compassionate energy so that we can access compassion for others, and from there, better take advantage of any moment as an opportunity for positive growth, connection, and joy in living.
      Sheryl Stoller – Stoller Parent Coaching

      Early Bird (F) and AM (M)
      Virtual Preschool Programming For Today’s World
      In this uncertain time, there is a need to provide a virtual and safe learning environment for families who were not ready to return to in person classes. Using years of teaching experience, background in early childhood education and desire to create a high-quality program for our children and families the presenters have designed a program from the ground up. This workshop shares successful methods in developing a quality virtual preschool program and provides a foundation upon which participants can build to create their own virtual programming options.
      Emily Norman – Park District of Oak Park

      Early Bird (G)
      ComPASSION for Oneself and Children through 5 Basic Needs
      How do you wake up each day? Are you feeling energetic for the day ahead? Are you able to be on time for your schedule? Are you bubbling with creativity? Do you look forward to spending time with children? Are you excited to use your ability today? Perhaps you answered “no” once or twice, but we expect young children to be energetic and creative learners EVERY DAY! If we cannot meet our own basic needs with comPASSION, how can we co-regulate children with tenderness?
      Dr. Janis Clark Johnston


    Morning Workshops (Choose One) - 9:45 - 11:15 AM

    AM (H)
    Tiny Tunes For Growing Toddlers and Early 3’s
    Toddlers develop critical skills by moving through their environment, exploring their bodies and vocal capabilities, and finding ways to interact with others. Developmentally appropriate music and movement activities provide just what a toddler needs to promote brain growth, language skills, early socialization and coordination. Tap into a toddler’s brain and you’ll come out singing. Understand the toddler body and you’ll start to dance! Miss Carole has music and movement activities that will delight children from early walkers to early 3’s. Zoom in prepared to move! Carole Stephens- Macaroni Soup!

    AM (I) and PM (P) (double session*)
    Calm Classroom, Mental Health Activities Embedded Throughout the Day
    In these challenging times, it is vital that we provide a safe, secure, nurturing and comforting environment for children and adults. This workshop will provide a framework for classroom staff, home visitors, and family childcare providers to use their knowledge of child development and family dynamics to understand the parents and children that they are interacting with. They will learn how observations, the structure of the day, the learning environment, and most importantly child-adult interaction create and maintain a safe place for children and adults to be together.
    Leah Shapiro – L.S. ECE Comprehensive Services

    AM (J)
    Transforming Relationships Using Racial Equity
    Racial disparities are not easy for Americans to confront, in large part because of a long-standing reluctance to talk about issues of race and ethnicity frankly and openly. This workshop provides a safe space to discuss our difficulties addressing race and confronting racial disparities. The discussions will explore participants’ own ideas about “race” and how those beliefs may prompt exclusionary and disparate practices, segregated boundaries and experiences that make it difficult for the Teacher-Parent relationship to play out in our everyday interactions. The session will conclude with recommendations, suggestions and plans for an equity conscious approach to support providers in their daily work.
    Tajuana Rice – Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership

    AM (K) and PM (Q) (double session*)
    Self-Care Matters!
    This presentation trains individuals to become advocates of a healthy lifestyle and spread awareness of self-care for people in all walks of life by creating awareness for self-care. The presenter will share strategies and experiences that model SELF-CARE as a priority for everyone and a comprehensive health program comprised of healthy eating & lifestyle habits, simple physical exercises, mental, emotional and social health, and a Daily Five Minutes of practice.
    Kalpana Sharma- DC Public Schools

    AM (N) (English) and PM S (Spanish)
    Reflective Practice in Building Relationships with Families
    Working with diverse families requires us to look at our own cultural competency, communication, and role in building a strong and equitable relationship. Through a lens of Anti-Bias curriculum and reflective practice approaches, this workshop will support ways to build relationships with families. This session is for early childhood practitioners interested in looking at their role in working with families. Offered once in English and once in Spanish.
    Elizabeth Tertell – Erikson Institute

    AM (W) and PM (V)
    Social-Emotional Learning at Home
    Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves creating positive relationships and emotional connections to help children develop the skills they need to be successful in life. Families are critical partners in helping children learn skills, attitudes, and behaviors we want all students to master. Attendees of this workshop will learn how to define social-emotional learning, understand why SEL is important, list the 5 components of SEL, and utilize at home resources to support SEL growth.
    Erin Bradd – Park District of Oak Park

    *Workshops listed as a Double Session require the attendee to sign up for both sessions. Each session will cover different materials and practices offering attendees a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

    Afternoon Workshops (Choose One) - 1:00 - 2:30 PM

    Note: Be sure to check the list of afternoon workshops that are also offered in the morning. They are listed together in the Early Bird and Morning Workshop tabs. 

    PM (O)
    I’m Singing, I’m Dancing, I’m LEARNING!
    Sing! Stamp! Clap! March! Is your classroom bursting with action verbs?  Miss Carole invites you to add to your repertoire of highly usable music for preschoolers. Tips for making e-learning more effective and engaging are included. Favorites and new – something for teachers and children of all abilities.
    Carole Stephens-Macaroni Soup!

    PM (R)
    Could screen-free voice technology support early childhood learning – both at home and in the classroom? Lessons from using Alexa in PK-5.
    This workshop explores Alexa as a relatively new technology interface for learning in the classroom and at home. Through an interactive presentation and breakout room discussions, participants will gain a basic understanding of voice-assistive technology, including its risks and benefits. We’ll explore how voice technology is being used in early childhood education today, including in classroom management, social-emotional learning, and academics, and then touch on what might be next in conversational AI.
    Aparna RamanathanAskMyClass

    PM (T)
    Start with Knowing Students & Committing to Success for All
    Equity begins with a deep understanding. Learn how to get to know students and families to deepen relationships, differentiate learning experiences, and commit to success for each and every student.
    Jill Pacyna – District 97

    Looking for More Information?

    Head to our Contact Us page and fill out our contact form and someone from our team will get back to you. We look forward to hearing from you!