More than 1,000 education professionals gathered to learn how equity is critical in early childhood education at the 16th annual Early Years Conference.
Educational equity means all students have access, opportunities, and supports to thrive in school. Social or cultural factors, such as ethnicity, income, ZIP code, or gender, shouldn't predict whether students are prepared and successful in school.
Equity should be a focus for educators beginning in a student's early years and the conference featured learning sessions on supporting children and families from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, dual language development, mental health and trauma-informed care, and culturally competent instruction.
“Every one of these topics is about what children really need to be able to be persistent learners in life,” said Lucia Garay, executive director, San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) early education programs and services. “And we hope that everyone will take away a technique or knowledge that is going to make them a stronger practitioner as early as next week.”
The conference offered workshops for administrators, master teachers and coaches, as well as teachers and practitioners.
Jessica, a first-time attendee from Children’s Paradise Preschool & Infant Center in Escondido, came so she could learn new things and strategies that she could take back to the classroom.
“I currently have an autistic student, so I am particularly interested in the session on autism,” she said.
This year’s event, held Feb. 22-23 at Marina Village Conference Center, was presented by SDCOE, First 5 San Diego, and the California Preschool Instructional Network.
While this is the conference’s 16th year officially, Garay said that it was started as a grassroots event nearly 25 years ago by state preschool directors, and has grown to include family childcare providers, Title 22 special educators, and transitional kindergarten instructors.
“It’s a great show of community support for our professionals,” Garay said.