From the Press

Parents as Teachers virtual conference was a record-breaking affair

Conference sponsors are integral to our success

As a nonprofit organization with a mission to positively impact the lives of countless under-resourced families, Parents as Teachers wants to graciously thank the sponsors of our 2020 virtual conference for their much-needed contributions.

With their support, we were able to offer more than 2,500 conference attendees a virtual experience that provided professional development opportunities and invaluable information that they can use in the work they do strengthening families and preparing children for success later in life.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the Centene Charitable Foundation for being our Presenting sponsor, and PNC Bank for being our Premier sponsor. With the generosity of each of our sponsors, Parents as Teachers can raise funds to continue our outreach to the tens of thousands of children and families that depend on our free early childhood home visiting services.

We also want to acknowledge our other conference sponsors for their treasured contributions: Edward Jones, David & Cheryl Morley, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Athena Software, Bezos Family Foundation, RBO PrintLogistix, Jean & Mary Roy Scholarship, Mutual of America Financial Group, Moneta and the Twiga Foundation.

Their contributions help Parents as Teachers provide programs and services that support families in the most critical moments in their children’s lives. As we continue to grow, maintaining relationships with such great corporate partners is a vital component of the Parents as Teachers mission.

Some 2,500 attendees signed on calling it the ‘Best’

“This was an excellent conference, VIRTUALLY amazing to say the least. Plus, no sore arthritic knees from walking the conference, and I got to go to every single workshop I had hoped.”

Those are the words of an exuberant Kimberlee OakleafSoell, a parent educator from the DeSoto Parents as Teacher (PAT) affiliate who attended PAT’s first-ever virtual international conference on Oct. 5 – 8.

Some signed on from business offices, some joined from the comfort of their own homes, and others engaged from wherever there was internet access. Regardless of where people joined, each of them came together for the same vehement purpose: to learn how to optimize home visiting as a strategy to support parents in developing their parenting capacities, and helping their children to reach their full potential.

This year’s conference was one of historic proportions and exceptional significance; it was the first-ever virtual conference staged by PAT that attracted a record-breaking 2,500 attendees, and it offered a much-needed outlet for home visiting professionals to release some of the tensions brought on by COVID-19, while they pursued professional development.

“You all should truly celebrate this accomplishment and the presenters were incredible,” exclaimed OakleafSoell. “And to have easy access to slides, handouts and be able to hear well, be truly comfortable and frankly to be able to afford to attend for our school district, was HUGE.”

Beth Eberly of the Community Action Partnership of Lanc, said: “We LOVE Books by the Bushel; great prices, quick and dependable shipping, and a flawless billing process. Our parent educators and fiscal team love you!”

Originally slated for the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, the conference shifted to a virtual format, due to the COVID-19 crisis, and was delivered primarily from PAT’s St. Louis-based headquarters under the theme of Listen, Learn, Lead.

“This was our biggest event ever; a game-changer in the world of virtual conferencing in the home visiting industry,” said Bart Holland, PAT’s director of Marketing Communications and Events and the conference’s lead organizer. “When deciding to go virtual, we listened to health professionals and learned that the best way forward was to present a platform that would keep us the safest while providing our attendees with the highest quality of professional development activities.”

The “lobby” of the virtual conference space for #PATCON20

The “lobby” of the virtual conference space for #PATCON20

The conference encouraged the exchange of ideas, all concentrated on early childhood home visiting, facilitated through more than 60 workshops and panel discussions. It also included the ever-popular Exhibitor Emporium, a virtual Networking Night Out, virtual bingo, and Zumba and Yoga classes focused on strengthening the mind, body, and soul.

The presenters and workshops focused on topics and themes such as community engagement, collaborations, and partnerships, diversity, equity and inclusion, health and wellness, parenting and child development, serving multi-cultural groups, and parenting in a digital world.

Also, the conference featured a tribute to the Family And Child Education (FACE) program. FACE was initiated in 1990 by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) as an integrated model for an American Indian early childhood/parental involvement program that supports parents/primary caregivers in their role as their child’s first and most influential teacher.

Keynote speakers at PATCON20

Delivering a moving and inspirational keynote address during the FACE celebration was William Mervin “Billy” Mills, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member, and former track and field athlete who won a gold medal in the 10,000 meters run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; a victory considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets because he was an unknown and the first non-European to win the Olympic event and remains the only winner from the Americas.

Also delivering soul-stirring keynote addresses were Dr. Gail C. Christopher, founding president of The Ntianu Center for Nature and Healing, and former senior advisor and vice president at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a celebrated public speaker, pediatrician, children’s librarian, educator, and public health professional and member of PAT’s board of directors. Each encouraged the nurturing of children at an early age.

Constance Gully, PAT’s president, and CEO said the goal of the conference was to create the most cutting-edge, technologically advanced meeting available in cyberspace.

“We wanted to make it easier than ever for anyone who cares about children and families to come together from wherever he or she lives to discuss the benefits of early childhood home visiting,” Gully said.

As part of its on-going commitment to supporting organizations that serve under-resourced families, at each conference, PAT hosts a fundraising event. This year, in honor of the 30th-anniversary celebration of FACE, PAT held a Virtual Book Drive to benefit FACE affiliates across the country. Dollars raised will be divided evenly among the FACE sites to purchase much-needed books for their families.  This Virtual Book Drive will continue through November 15.