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Waco ISD early childhood educators gear up for the new school year

More than 200 teachers and aides for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade are participating in two days of intensive professional development.

Students may not start school until next week, but classes are in session this week for Waco ISD’s early childhood educators. More than 200 teachers and aides serving students in pre-kindergarten through second grade are participating in two days of intensive professional development to help them better meet the needs of the district’s youngest learners.

The first Waco ISD Early Childhood Conference started on Tuesday and continues today in the Cashion Academic Center at Baylor University. The agenda includes a focus on classroom management and foundational skills for literacy. In addition to presentations from outside experts, Waco ISD early childhood teachers and aides have organized breakout sessions to share best practices across classrooms and campuses.

“What happens in our pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms builds the foundation for our students’ future success,” Waco ISD Early Childhood Director Gwen James said. “We’ve always invested in professional development for our early childhood teachers and aides, but this intensive two-day conference takes that to another level. Our educators will be better prepared than ever before to meet the unique needs of our youngest learners.”

The lessons learned at the conference will also benefit children in programs outside of Waco ISD classrooms. Staff from the EOAC Head Start program; Inspiracíon, a non-profit organization serving families with children ages zero to four; and Parents as Teachers, a district program also serving families with children ages zero to four, are attending the conference.

“Programs like Head Start, Inspiracíon and Parents as Teachers play an important role in making sure that kids enter our schools ready to learn,” Dr. Hazel Rowe, interim superintendent, said. “Bringing together staff from those programs and Waco ISD’s early childhood teachers and aides benefits all of us, and the support of Baylor University helped to make it a reality.”

In addition to hosting the conference on campus, Baylor University’s Solid Gold Neighbor initiative provided breakfasts, lunches, snacks and welcome bags for participants.

“Baylor University’s involvement was out of a collaborative effort from Baylor External Affairs where we are inspired to lead, engage, support and celebrate the collective impact of Waco and Baylor,” Baylor University Director of Community Relations Holly Burchett said. “Together, with Baylor School of Education, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences and The Junior League of Waco, we were inspired to partner with one of our most impactful neighbors, Waco ISD. Neighbors share space, break bread and learn together. That’s exactly what we are doing.”