Atwater Kindergarten Team Presents at EL National Conference in Philadelphia

Earlier this school year, the Atwater Kindergarten team—Joleen Barry, Kamei Kim, Bridey Richards, Sara Starck, and Amy Thoreson—applied and was accepted to present at the 2018 EL Education National Conference in Philadephia.

“We had all attended different presentations, inservices and workshops for EL and we all thought there was a common need for more representation and differentiation on the Early Childhood end of the EL continuum,” says Richards. “We were encouraged to apply by our EL school designer Penny Rosetto and principal Kayla Russick, which we did last summer, and out of 350 applicants, we ended up being one of about 35 chosen.”

For this year’s conference, themed “Educating for a Better World,” more than 1,200 educators and experts gathered in Philadelphia to strengthen support for the whole child and celebrate remarkable students achievement across three dimensions.

Through nearly 100 master classes, PD sessions, and enriching conversations, participants worked to reinvigorate their approach to helping students become curious, ethical citizens who can build a better world.

The Atwater team presented a master class session entitled “High Quality Work in the Early Childhood Classroom.” Together, the team spoke about protocols in their classrooms, learning targets, core practices, guiding questions, and what high quality work looks like, and then hosted a gallery walk, where team members split into themed mini breakout sessions to allow for more specialized conversations.

Atwater Galleries:

Scientific Drawing: “Drawings That Teach” (Bridey Richards)
  • Student created rubrics
  • Revision through multiple drafts
  • Focus on craftsmanship and accuracy
Character (Amy Thoreson)
  • Junior Kindergarten Expedition on character traits
  • Character focused goal setting practices for Junior and Senior Kindergarten
  • Using rubrics and drafts in Early Childhood
Expeditions: “Who Are the Helpers at Atwater?”(Kamei Kim & Sarah Starck)
  • Explanation of expedition planning process
  • Examples of field work, multiple drafts, imbedded protocols, and expedition products
Writing (Joleen Barry)
  • Review components of Workshop
  • Peer Critique Protocol
  • Use of rubric for goal setting
Richards shares that, following the presentation, the team all felt a huge sense of affirmation.
“What we are doing really matters and that resonated with people,” she says. “There were a lot of people in the early childhood and early primary end that were really thankful for our presentation. We received a lot of feedback that it was super helpful and that we provided many useful resources for teachers to take straight back to their classrooms.”
“When the weekend was over, we actually received emails from credentialed EL schools thanking us for our work,” adds Thoreson. “These were schools that we look up to as leaders of EL and the fact that they were thanking us felt really good.”
Starck adds that executing a successful presentation didn’t come without a lot of preparation and time put into it.
“[The prep] was all worth it though. It was such a valuable, reflective experience. We showed other educators what we do, how we do it, and how it’s good for kids… I think it’s important that people hear different perspectives, and to understand that we are all still evolving as teachers.”
From this whole experience, Barry says the most important thing she took was just how powerful having a cohesive team really is.
“We all work together and learn from and support one another. I think it’s because of this that we were able to have a high quality presentation which positively impacted our participants.”
“I love working in a District that values these experiences for teachers,” adds Kim. “I also love working with this incredible team around me, including [Russick and Rosetto]. We are very unified and all have the same goals for our students. Everything we do is for the sake of our students.”
To learn more about the EL Education National Conference, visit: