By: Anni Krummel Reinking
The opportunity to attend the NAEYC conference was an extraordinary experience not only for myself as a professional, but also for my classroom and school community. I was able to build great connections with multiple individuals. I gained information and tools needed to present quality professional development to my staff and other co-workers. I gained great information for my administrator. And, I also gained knowledge on developmentally appropriate ways to engage my students in all areas of the classroom from math and reading to science and social engagement. For example, I got more information on websites for tracking, interactive learning websites, and programs that will benefit the students in my classroom. I was also able to gain professional connections for my own research and professional development as an Ed.D. student.
While attending the sessions and networking with individuals, I learned many new ideas and also confirmed my passion and love for early childhood by interacting with like-minded individuals. However, the most beneficial learning experience I had was the hands-on sessions that provided implementable activities that I can do with my students and help the teachers I mentor implement immediately. I learned how to do science in a developmentally appropriate way for my students that will get them involved. I also learned, from the amazing Opening Ceremony by Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts, the dynamic ways the performing arts can be incorporated to help students learn core subject areas.
The most memorable session I attended was a smaller session about incorporating service learning into the classroom to help students understand what volunteering is, beyond raising funds and gathering canned goods. From this session, I was able to gain ideas and begin to brainstorm how I can incorporate service learning into what I am already doing in my classroom. It is important for any student to learn through active service and interacting with community leaders in many different areas.
Next year at the 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, or at any NAEYC conference, I would recommend that participants plan! There are so many sessions and planning ahead to choose the ones you want to attend is essential. I would also recommend doing some of your own homework. After finding the sessions that sound interesting to you, investigate the topic, look up the presenter, and make sure the session is one that will be applicable to you. But most importantly, do not be afraid to session jump.
This is my second NAEYC conference, and overall the conference is always excellent and always brings great presenters, exhibitors, and professionals from around the world who are all passionate about one thing, early childhood education and the quality our children deserve.
Anni Krummel Reinking is one of the 2013 NAEYC Legacy Annual Conference Scholarship recipients. She is an early childhood special education teacher in Central Illinois and an Ed.D. student at Illinois State University.