Start Early. Start well.

January 18, 2017

Building Young Children's Language Skills Will Be Focus of Professional Development Institute

Omaha, Neb. — More than 200 teachers, community-based early childhood educators, and others who serve young children in the metro area will participate in the second institute of the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan “Professional Development for All” 2016-2017 series January 19 and 21 in Omaha. 

The event, entitled “It’s More Than Words: Language as a Foundation for Children’s Thinking and Learning,” runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, both at the Milo Bail Student Center on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus. Participants will examine key research and practical strategies that build children’s language and communication as a foundation for active thinking and learning.

Developed by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and funded by the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, the free professional development series is designed to introduce leading-edge research and innovative practices to those who work with young children and families, and give early childhood professionals the chance to come together and learn from each other. Now in its second year, the series drew nearly 1,000 participants in 2015-2016.

“A key strategy in supporting young children as active thinkers and learners is to let them talk,” said Chris Maxwell, director of program development at the Buffett Institute. “We will explore ways to promote languages spoken at home and at school, as well as the critical role teachers play in supporting these efforts.” 

Featured speakers at the institute include Luisiana Meléndez, associate clinical professor and director of the Bilingual/ESL Certificate Program at Erikson Institute. In addition to giving the keynote address, Meléndez will be co-presenting a Spanish-language session Thursday on the importance of language development with Janette Merkel, program specialist at the Buffett Institute. Also presenting at the institute are Holly Hatton-Bowers, assistant professor in Child, Youth, and Family Studies and early childhood Extension specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Nancy Powers and Jenna O’Farrell from St. Johnsbury (Vt.) School. Powers is a third grade teacher and O’Farrell is lower school principal for PreK through Grade 3, both of whom participated in the FirstSchool initiative, a PreK-3rd grade approach to improving early elementary school experiences for African-American, Latino, and low-income children and their families. FirstSchool is based at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The next 2016-2017 “Professional Development for All” institute will be March 2 and 4.