Building Joyful Classrooms 2019: Featured Speakers

Presenters have been confirmed for Building Joyful Classrooms 2019, which will be held at ECC South Campus on Saturday, October 19. Check out this line up:


Our keynote address, CHOOSING JOY: WE WERE MADE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, will be presented by Dr. Lynn Lubecki (NYS Pyramid Model Master Cadre Trainer and Research Associate at the Rochester Children’s Institute). Dr. Lubecki won the first Pyramid Model Champion Award at the Pyramid Model National Meeting in 2018 and has worked in early childhood education for more than 20 years.


  • Loving Children: The Foundation for Understanding Development will be presented by Bridget Palmer (Liberty POST) and Kim Hauptman (Buffalo Hearing and Speech).
  • Infant Toddler Specialists, Maryann Ciskal and Kelly Janese, will present Routines & Expectations: Blueprints for Success.
  • Megan Coltoniak, conference chairperson and owner of Bloom Creative Arts, will present Fix it Before It Breaks: Musical Strategies to Help Your Day.
  • Gerald Smith (Help Me Grow) and Denise Roty (Buffalo Hearing and Speech) return for an encore presentation of Healthy Social Development: Tools for Teaching.


  • Which Love Languages are you Speaking? will be presented by Lindsay Leusch (Kangarootime).
  • Specialists from Best Self will present an Intro to Teacher-Child Interaction Therapy (TCIT) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).
  • Preventative Strategies to Add to Your Toolkit will be presented by Shannon Ochal (Gateway) and Amanda McPhereson (Bloom Creative Arts).


  • A Make & Take Session will be facilitated by Silvia Steele (Holy Cross Head Start).
  • An introduction to Radiant Child Yoga will be presented by Sarah & Vito Gigante (Cantalician Center for Learning).
  • A Leadership Debrief for Directors will be facilitated by Christina Fecio, Educational Consultant and WNY Behavior Collaboration chairperson.

Need more event info? Check out the flyer here and order tickets here.



No one likes to wait.

When I ask training participants to detail their typical classroom routine, most teachers have a list of 15+ transitions before lunch.  In fact, many teachers realize that their schedule includes about 10 transitions every two hours. Multiply that by the 8-10 hours that many children spend in our care and whoa.


That’s A LOT of time spent in transitions… which can often mean A LOT of time spent waiting.

Most adults struggle with waiting — just thinking about the long lines at the DMV or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room makes me twitch! — so why do we expect children to wait patiently and compliantly, every single day?

The bad news? Transitions can be troubling — noisy, hectic, and a breeding ground for challenging behaviors.

The good news? With purposeful planning, teachers can reduce wait times and transform transitions into engaging learning opportunities.


3 Strategies for Smoother Transitions:

  • Be consistent. Establish a habit of consistently using a transition warning AND a transition signal (in addition to a verbal direction).
    • transition warning (such as “5 more minutes” with a visual countdown) lets children know that an activity will end soon.
    • A transition signal accompanies a verbal direction and may be auditory (ringing a bell, singing a song),  visual (turning off lights), or gestural (pointing to a picture on a posted schedule).
  • Be proactive. Eliminate “sit and wait” portions of the day — have lunch ready before calling children to the table, have centers already set up for when you return from the gym/outdoors, and consider all “line times” as opportunities to sing and move!
  • Be generous with positive attention. Know who needs extra attention & give it freely. Engage children as helpers, recognize their efforts, and provide lots of pre-correction/opportunities to practice expected behaviors (for example, explain and practice “walking feet” before someone starts running in the hallway).

Want to learn more?

  • Check out this list of 10 Simple Strategies that teachers can use to reflect/self-check their classroom routines and expectations.
  • Watch this quick video  (4 minutes) for an overview of why transitions matter and how teachers can make them smoother.




Do you see the princess?

3YO: “I love the card with the princess.”

♠️ How old were you when you realized the Ace of Spades (Bicycle brand) card has a “princess” in the middle? I was “today years old” 😂

This made me laugh, of course, but it also reminded me of two important things.

✅ Young children are *so* observant. They notice everything — whether you want them to or not! As I discussed with a group of teachers last night: when you choose to spend time with children, you’re choosing to be a role model.

✅ You see what you are looking for. It’s not a coincidence that my ‘3YO-always in a dress-tiara loving-princess obsessed’ niece noticed the “princess” in the deck of cards. Human beings are hardwired to look for familiarity and for confirmation…which is why it’s so important to “think about what you think.”

👎🏻 If you’re a teacher who believes that a child is challenging, you’re more likely to find evidence of challenging behavior.

👎🏻 If you’re a coworker who believes that your colleague is lazy/not hardworking, you’re more likely to find evidence of subpar performance … and so on.

Fortunately, the opposite also holds true.

❤️ If you’re a person who believes in positive intent, you’re more likely to find evidence of generous, thoughtful behavior.

❤️ If you’re a person who believes in optimism (the “that glass is refillable!” kind), you’re more likely to find evidence of second chances, resilience, and kindness.

You can see the princess… but you have to look for it first. ❤️

Building Joyful Classrooms

Wow! What a day!

Our first annual conference came together beautifully on Saturday, October 20th at the Cantalician Center, when 150 early childhood educators and 20 dedicated volunteers (also ECE professionals!) shared in the “beautiful mess” of building joyful classrooms.

Joe Cozzo, CEO of Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, set the tone for the day with his powerful reminder to remain hopeful, to connect, and to be an instrument of inspiration. It was the perfect message to carry with us throughout the day — and always. (If you’re looking for a copy of the PowerPoint, you can find it in the Helpful Handouts tab.)

The entire agenda echoed the focus on attachment and interactions, reminding us that all learning happens within the context of relationships. Whether you were learning more about child development with Mary & Bridget, discussing routines and expectations with Kristin & Kim, or adding teaching strategies to your toolbox with Denise & Gerald, the recurring themes were warm, positive interactions, meaningful relationships, and the benefits of choosing joy.

And that culminating session? It was the frosting on the cake! Every option was a powerful opportunity to assure that you could apply what you had learned:

  • The make & take made it possible for teachers to bring content directly to children (you can’t go wrong with a sock baby!). A million thanks to Silvia Steele for organizing!
  • The Leadership Debrief focused on how managers can support program-wide implementation. Huge thanks to Marilyn Ballard for facilitating on behalf of DAL.
  • Vito and Sarah‘s “de-stress at your desk” yoga session was the perfect self-care component. As they said, a joyful classroom requires a joyful you!

Thank you to everyone who shared this day with us, including the tireless committee members and volunteers, and to our generous sponsors. It’s a truly a pleasure to be “hope builders” with all of you.

  • Looking for event photos? You’ll find them on Facebook.
  • Want to follow up with one of the presenters? Send us a Facebook message and we will connect you.
  • Did you complete our feedback survey yet? It’s only 5 questions and takes 2 minutes, but is super helpful!

Recommended Reading

It’s always a pleasure to share words of inspiration, tips & tricks, and other “tools of the trade” that others have so graciously crafted for us. As Bill Nye said, “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”


(See also: I sat down to write a blog post and realized that a simple list might be all that my end-of-the-school-year brain can pull together today.)

With that in mind, enjoy this curated list of five recent faves:

  1. It’s more than just a spoon. Jennifer Horner, Director of Education Development for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Learning Academy, shared this beautiful reminder to approach everyday interactions with intention.
  2. Meaningful relationships promote positive behaviors. If you have not yet checked out the “10 Simple Strategies” series curated by the WNY Behavior Collaboration, you don’t know what you’re missing! You can access the full series here.
  3. New ideas are a lot like dessert — better when they are bite-sized! I hope you’ll enjoy this perspective on bite-size advocacy; after all, when you choose early childhood education as a career, your first role is advocate for children
  4. Whether you’re a techie or decidedly tech-free, you’ll love Teacher Tom’s take on the best preschool app. Go ahead, download it today!
  5. …and if you happen to prefer podcasts over articles, we’ve got a recommendation for you, too. You’re going to love the Little Kids, Big Questions series from Zero to Three! Get started with Developing Self-Esteem in the Early Years.

Trauma-Informed Care

Three things happened today to give me a very clear message that it’s time to talk about trauma.

  1. I had the pleasure of hearing Holly Elissa Bruno speak at an early childhood conference today and she mentioned her most recent article, Transforming Trauma into Wisdom.
  2. Earlier the same day, a colleague shared a report on Oprah Winfrey’s recent focus on developmental trauma; she reminded me to approach interactions with a “what happened to this child” mentality versus “what’s wrong with this child?”
  3. The local Child Care Resource Network announced details about a screening of Resilience, the Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.

Truth, just as trauma,

is everywhere;

so is healing.

Trauma-informed care is arguably an essential training topic for every early childhood educator. The core principles of a trauma-informed approach include safety, trust, and collaboration; not surprisingly, those same principles drive early childhood best practices overall. We are in the business of nurturing little hearts and minds, so we have an obligation to nurture them with love and kindness.

Not sure where to start? Knowledge is power – and knowledge guides practice.

Access the PDF here:

Access the report here:

Learn more about a film screening and panel discussion here: