By Alicia Allard, Northwest Indian College Early Learning Center Director

Native youth often face disproportionate challenges in their young lives. Early childhood teachers can help these young learners increase their resiliency while they face adverse circumstances by supporting factors that protect and strengthen young children, according to Ray Soriano, a keynote speaker at the 33rd Annual FOCUS on Children Conference at Bellingham Technical College. This year’s day-long conference focused on nurturing connections through senses, provided staff members of Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Early Learning Center with practical tools for classroom management and leadership.

33rd Annual FOCUS on Children Conference at Bellingham Technical College.

According to Soriano, early childhood educators should seek to engage with children in a way that helps them thrive and supports their lifelong resiliency to face and overcome adverse experiences. He outlined five ways early childhood educators can enhance the support of children in their care by:

  • supporting physical and emotional safety;
  • creating awareness of educators’ own triggers;
  • identifying and supporting the unique strengths of each family;
  • helping boys connect;
  • and sharing interests with children.

Preschool Teacher Anna Somerville noted that her role is, “to create an environment (both physical and emotional) that fosters children who can flourish despite adversity.” This focus on fostering whole-child health and wellness is a cornerstone of the work at the NWIC Early Learning Center, in the associate of applied science transfer degree program, and throughout the Restorative Teachings Early Childhood Education Initiative.

The NWIC ELC staff came away with many useful tools to incorporate into their classrooms, including how to use screening and assessment tools to support young children’s development and addressing challenging behavior in the classroom through positive guidance and curriculum. The ELC Director attended the session led by Restorative Teachings Principal Investigator Nahrin Aziz-Parsons, which provided an overview of the NWIC Restorative Teachings project to date and the importance of involving families and tribal communities in creating place-based learning opportunities for Native children.

NWIC’s Sacred Little Ones/Restorative Teachings display table at the FOCUS on Children Conference.

Attendees also learned more about understanding and building attachment with young children, and preventing expulsion from early childhood programs through planning and positive guidance, leadership, and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) which is a reflective supervision framework, as well as creating and sustaining a positive workplace through reflection and collaboration.

NWIC ELC infant teacher Christine Edwards noted that she “walked away with more understanding” after attending the workshop on building attachment. Several staff commented that the workshops helped them expand the knowledge they bring to the classroom in a way that will enhance their teaching and relationships with children and families.

All staff who attended received six hours of continuing education hours as required by the Washington State Department of Early Learning for all teaching staff.

 

The staff of the NWIC ELC would like to thank the College Fund and the Restorative Teachings TCU ECE Initiatives grant for the opportunity to expand their understanding of the important role ECE educators play in the lives of young children and ways to build skills through reflection and collaboration.

Northwest Indian College staff members who attended the FOCUS on Children conference.