2021 Early Childhood Conference Featured Presenters
Jim Gill, Keynote Speaker, Musician and Author
Jim Gill's Bio
Jim Gill spent 20 years directing programs in music play for families with children with special needs in the Chicago area. His particular writing style, combining word play and movement opportunities into songs, was developed through this work. Jim completed his graduate studies in child development at the Erikson Institute of Chicago with a special emphasis on the study of play. Jim has released ten award-winning CDs of music play for young and is also the author of two children’s books. Over the years he has received five awards from the American Library Association for his releases, and has presented nationwide, including NAEYC, NAFCC, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Rebecca Isbell, Keynote Speaker, Consultant and Author
Rebecca Isbell's Bio
Rebecca Isbell, EdD., is a motivational speaker, prolific writer, and consultant in early childhood education. She served as the Director of the Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Learning and Development and Professor of Early Childhood Education at East Tennessee State University where she was honored as an “Outstanding Teacher.” She is the author of thirteen books and numerous articles related to creativity, learning environments, play, literacy, the arts, and child development. Her most recent book is Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning, published by NAEYC and co-authored with Sonia Yoshizawa.
Cathy Topal, Lecturer of Visual Arts, Reggio, Author
Cathy Weisman Topal's Bio
Cathy Weisman Topal has been a lecturer in visual arts education in the Dept. of Education and Child Studies at Smith College in Northampton, MA for over 30 years. During that time she has also been a studio art teacher at the early childhood center and laboratory school at Smith College. Cathy is the author of Children, Clay and Sculpture; Children and Painting; Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials; and the sequel, Beautiful Stuff from Nature: More Learning with Found Materials co-authored with Lella Gandini; Thinking With a Line , Explorations in Art: Kindergarten, a kindergarten visual arts curriculum adopted by many states; and Creative Minds Out of School, an after school arts curriculum.
Margie Brickley, Bank Street College Faculty, Infant/T Advisor
Margie Brickley's Bio
Margie Brickley, MSEd, is on the faculty of the Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention program at Bank Street College of Education in NY. She teaches courses in development and assessment and is an advisor to fieldwork students. She holds an Infant Mental Health Endorsement (Level IV Research/ Faculty). Her work experience includes directing early childhood programs (child care centers, teen parent programs, and a therapeutic program), early intervention home visiting, teaching infants and toddlers, and teaching at the community college, undergraduate and graduate school levels.
Walter Drew, Early Childhood Science and Play Educator, Visual Artist
Walter Drew's Bio
Walter Drew, EdD., is an early childhood science educator, visual artist, and co-founder of the Institute for Self Active Education (ISAE) who served as Director of the African Primary Science Program in Sierra Leone, West Africa and President of the Association for the Study of Play (TASP). For more than 40 years he has researched and conducted hands-on self-active play experiences with children and adults as a process for awakening creativity, strengthening STEM in early childhood professional practice, and as a way of generating hope and optimism across the human life span. Dr. Drew is co-author of From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers Play with Children’s Learning, published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). He is the creator of Dr. Drew’s Discovery Blocks, chosen Best Toy of the Year by the Parents Choice Foundation in 1982. He is the recipient of the 2009 Patricia Monighan Nourot Award, the FLAEYC Outstanding Member Award, and the 2018 NAEYC Peace Educators Award. He now serves as facilitator of the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children (FLAEYC) Play Chapter.
Melody Hobbs, District Preschool Program Director, Adjunct ECE Instructor
Melody Hobbs' Bio
Melody Kay Hobbs, Ed.S., Melody has been a practitioner in the field of early childhood for over 20 years. Melody has served in the role as classroom teacher, preschool program coordinator, family educator, state consultant, pre- service mentor, and university adjunct. Throughout her career, she has written staff development opportunities that address real classroom issues and appropriate instructional strategies that support child learning for local, state, regional, and national conferences. Melody will co-present her sessions with Sarah Neessen, B.S., Head Start Clasroom Teacher, with over 10 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Education.
Carmen Colon, Dual Language Advisor and Bank Street College Instructor
Carmen Colon's Bio
Carmen Colón, M.S., is an Advisor and Instructor at the Graduate School at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. She has been part of Bank Street College’s faculty since 2009. She teaches courses in Curriculum Development and Early Childhood Practicum. She has been an Educational Consultant in Curriculum Development in Dual language, General and Special Education practice and Getting ready for Pre-K: An Institute for Educators and coaching support for leaders around reflective supervision with a focus on bilingual education practices. Her early years in her career were spent as an Early Childhood educator and after school Spanish teacher.
Cris Lozon, St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Director, Play Presenter
Cris Lozon's Bio
Cris Lozon, Ph.D., is the Early Childhood Director for St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, California. She has taught early childhood and elementary aged students in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Italy over 20 years before returning to the United States. Dr. Lozon advocates for keeping play in the early childhood classroom through teacher training, parent education, and sharing her expertise as a speaker at schools and national conferences. Her research interests include constructivism, documentation of children's construction of knowledge through play, and work of Reggio Emilia schools.
Pat Tuttle, Former Early Childhood Faculty, Storyteller/Story actor
Pat Tuttle's Bio
Pat Tuttle, MA., is a former early childhood education faculty at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. She has over 40 years of experience teaching preschool in Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina, and served in various capacities such as administration of accredited NAEYC preschool programs, consultant, writer, and presenter at numerous conferences. Pat is currently retired, but contracting with diverse classrooms in early childhood and kindergarten/first grade in Asheville and Buncombe County in North Carolina, and implementing storytelling and story acting on a weekly basis through modeling and coaching within the classrooms.
Anne Lowry, STEM Preschool Teacher, NAEYC EC Science Interest Forum Facilitator
Anne Lowry's Bio
Anne Lowry, M.Ed., has been teaching preschool for many years in both multi-age and single age settings. Currently a PreK teacher at Aleph Academy, a Reggio –Inspired preschool in Reno, NV, Anne uses the constructivist principles of the Reggio Emilia approach in her classroom, focusing on the relationships between science, geography, storytelling, and art. Anne provides professional development on these topics and has published on constructivist STEM teaching in preschool and continues to explore how children use play, provocations and documentation to create their own learning, and how teachers and schools can facilitate such learning.
Alissa Lange, EC STEM Lab Director, Associate Professor of EC Education
Alissa Lange's Bio
Alissa Lange, Ph.D., is the director of EC STEM Lab and an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at East Tennessee State University. Prior to this, she was an Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, an Institute of Educational Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, a US Fulbright Scholar to Colombia, and a teacher of children and adults. She has led or co-led multiple grant-funded studies, including the preschool STEM professional development project, SciMath-DLL, funded by the National Science Foundation. Her recent book, Teaching Preschool STEM Classroom: Big Ideas for 3-5-Year-Olds, was published by Teachers College Press in 2019.