On the eve of its 40th anniversary as an organization, Parents as Teachers’ international conference continues to attract a wide swath of early childhood development professionals who tend to acquire the highest level of professional enlightenment and best practices available in the field of parenting education through home visiting.
With each passing year, the annual conferences get bigger and better. Scores of conventioneers helped usher in a new attendance record in New Orleans, with a total of 2,200 delegates, 1,743 in person and 456 attending virtually.
Presented to a sold-out audience, Parents as Teachers President and CEO Constance Gully said the conference amplified the importance of home visiting as a strategy to help address issues like maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity, advanced training on pre-natal support, and the need for open dialogue and collaboration between policy makers, funders, and child welfare advocates.
“The success of the conference has led to the expansion of participation between parent educators, early childhood development experts, state leaders, child advocacy groups, policy influencers and legislators,” Gully said. “Partnerships and community engagement are essential to all of our sustainable developmental goals that are designed to support our affiliates.”
Themed as Unmasking Potential, through workshops and panel discussions talks abound on how Parents as Teachers uses its resources and financial backing to support its affiliates and staff, as they render service to tens of thousands of families each year.
ABC’s Good Morning America Janai Norman, the Opening Session keynoter, had the crowd listening to her admirable speech with rapt attention while speaking about her childbearing experience and the maternal mortality crisis facing Black and brown women during pregnancy.
The conference also featured addresses from New York Times Reporter Erica Green, Dr. Ron Ferguson, an MIT-trained economist, David Jacobson, a principal technical advisor who designed and leads the Educator Development Center’s First 10 initiative, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a prominent pediatrician, and person responsible for exposing the Flint Water Crisis.
“Janai, Erica, Ron, David and Dr. Hanna-Attisha all shared pertinent information and spoke about the importance of parental engagement in the early years of a child’s life,” said Gully. “They inspired the audiences to learn more and do more for the tens of thousands of children and families we serve.”
This year’s conference featured more than 80 workshops, awards presentations, mini-plenaries, exhibits, and Zumba and Yoga classes punctuated by a fun-filled Night Out Networking session, which was held at the WWII Museum.
Louisiana State Rep. Stephanie Ann Hilferty (R-district 94) was honored with the Jack Tweedie Human Services and Early Learning Champion Award. The Losos Prizes for Innovation were presented to the Community Partnership Family Resource Center Parents as Teachers Program of Woodland Park, Colorado, and the United Way of Central Georgia.
Parent Educator of the Year awards were bestowed on Michelle Janosko, a Parent Educator at the Keiki O Ka Aina Parents as Teachers program in Honolulu, Lydia Mayo of the Lexington School District Two/STAR Family Partnership in Columbia, South Carolina; Gigi Towers from the Lexington County School District One Parenting Center in Lexington, S.C.; and Debra Washington of the Beaufort County School District Parents as Teachers (F.A.C.E.S.) program in Beaufort, S.C.
New to this year’s conference was the awarding and highlighting of affiliates that went the extra mile to adopt and implement the new branding guidelines launched at last year’s conference. Recognized as the Branding Affiliate of the Year was the Kutest Kids’ Parents as Teachers affiliate from Philadelphia, PA.
There were 211 Gold Standard Affiliates, 60 Silver Standard Affiliates and 62 Bronze Standard Affiliates also recognized for implementing portions of the rebranding initiative in categories that included print materials, digital materials, promotional items/swag, organization website and social media accounts.
In thanking the sponsors, presenters, attendees, and everyone who had a hand in making the conference a rousing success, Bart Holland, Parents as Teachers’ national director of Marketing & Communications, said participating in these conferences can be a valuable investment for one’s personal and professional growth.
“It’s a fantastic way to learn about best practices and the latest trends and innovations in home visiting while gaining well-regarded insights and skills around strengthening families and preparing young children for entering kindergarten,” Holland said.