Start Early. Start well.

March 08, 2024

PD for All Speaker Says Connection Is the Key in Working With Young Children

Tabatha Rosproy, second from left, with three women who attended the Feb. 29 PD for All event.Tabatha Rosproy, second from left, with three women who attended the Feb. 29 PD for All event.
By Erin Duffy 

Nearly 100 early educators came out in late February to learn from early childhood educator and trainer Tabatha Rosproy, who shared strategies for creating warm and secure connections with young children and reacting calmly to their big feelings. 

Rosproy led the Buffett Early Childhood Institute’s first 2023–24 Professional Development for All event on Feb. 29. The theme of this year’s series is “Nurturing Positive Adult-Child Interactions When Behaviors Challenge Us.”  

Register now for the next free event on this topic, a community panel featuring educators, parents, and a mental health provider, on April 2.  

Rosproy is the early childhood project coordinator for the Kansas Parent Information Resource Center and in 2020 became the first early educator to be named a National Teacher of the Year. She helped start a preschool program in a Kansas nursing home that nurtured intergenerational bonds between its young students and the facility’s senior residents.  

Rosproy was equal parts self-deprecating, candid, and encouraging. She spoke about growing up in an unstable family that bounced around rural towns without much support and the lessons she took from that as an early educator working with children from different backgrounds.  

At the program she led in the Kansas nursing home, one little girl, “Sarah,” cried every day at drop-off. She whined. She pouted. She didn’t connect with teachers or students.  

Rosproy worked on building up her confidence and engaging in positive interactions with her.  

Sarah was tasked with visiting the rooms of less-mobile seniors. She delivered Post-It notes with small messages. She received hugs, high-fives, and kind words, and her demeanor began to change. 

“Connection is the missing piece in academic success,” Rosproy said.  

She explained some highlights of the Conscious Discipline training method and ways teachers could respond when children exhibited less-optimal behaviors, including deep breaths and not taking challenging behaviors personally.   

“The mistake we make is thinking 3- and 4-year-olds know the rules,” she said. “We punish them, send them to the principal, send them to timeout. Their brain does not fully develop until they’re 24 years old. They do not know. They need our help. They need us to be calm ... so we can teach them.”  

Attendees practiced an “I love you” ritual—a nursery rhyme with soothing physical touch and eye contact—and reflected on how they could better connect with the children in their care.  

“We all want tips and tricks and band-aids and quick solutions. But the solution is in us,” Rosproy said. “I don't need to watch 97 TikToks about gentle parenting. What I need to do is be calm myself.”  

PD for All is a series of free professional development opportunities open to all early childhood professionals who serve young children, birth through Grade 3. The program introduces leading-edge research and innovative practices and gives participants the opportunity to come together and learn from one another. It is funded by the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties. To find past PD for All resources and information about upcoming events, visit here.  


Erin Duffy is the managing editor at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and writes about early childhood issues that affect children, families, educators, and communities. Previously, she spent more than a decade covering education stories and more for daily newspapers.       
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