2016 Keynote & Featured Speakers

Keynote | Friday October 14 | 9am

Gwen A. Simmons
Power to the profession: engaging wisconsin early childhood educators!

Join Gwen Simmons as she reflects on her journey from an early childhood teacher and center director to her senior position at NAEYC. Learn about exciting new intitatives to unify early childhood educators across all states and settings so they can further enrich the lives of children and families. 

Gwen A. Simmons is NAEYC’s Senior Director of Affiliate and Member Relations. In this role she is responsible for coordinating activities with NAEYC’s network of state and local affiliates, and coordinating the development of strategic planning efforts.

Prior to joining NAEYC Gwen served as Ohio AEYC’s first executive director and held a similar role for South Dakota AEYC. Simmons' early childhood professional journey includes classroom teacher, program coordinator and site administrator, college instructor, and instructional designer. Gwen has worked in a variety of early childhood settings, including corporate child care, campus lab schools, hospital based programs, and community and faith based settings. She graduated from Ashland University with a BS in Education, and has completed graduate coursework in Child and Family Studies at The Ohio State University.

Featured Speaker | Friday October 14 | 10:30am


Brain Development: You REALLY Are Making A Difference!

The brain is an amazing organ that allows each of us to think, feel, act and learn. You have the sensational opportunity to contribute to a child’s optimal development. This presentation provides an easy to understand and fun overview of brain basics. You will be inspired through the realization of how incredibly important you are in making a real difference!

Deborah McNelis, M.Ed is committed to supporting collaborations among human development professionals and corporations in addition to working with parents. She has developed the "Creating Great Community Connections" presentation among many others.

“The primary need of the brain is predictable and responsive love!”

Keynote | Saturday October 15 | 9am

Early Ed Talks

Three inspiring leaders in Wisconsin share their insights on hot topics in Early Childhood Education. We are calling them Early EdTalks: polished, inspiring and to-the-point. The three short presentations will focus on critical touchpoints that are at the core of our work in early care and education.

Re-igniting your Passion to Develop your Vision for Excellence in Early Care and Education
Sue Vincent, Executive Director, Encompass Early Education and Care, Inc.

Embracing Diversity, and What That Really Means
Robin Fox, PhD, Associate Dean, College of Education and Professional Studies at UW Whitewater

From Receptors to Relationships: The Importance of Early Brain Development
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH,MSLIS, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UW Madison School of Medicine and Public Health

Sue VincentSue Vincent received her Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education from the UW Stout in 1984 and received her Early Childhood Leadership Credential from UW Milwaukee in 2015. She has worked in a variety of roles including Teacher, Center Director, Grant Administrator, Chief Operating Officer and currently serves as Executive Director of Encompass Early Education and Care, Inc.  Encompass is a not-for profit agency serving over 700 children a day within 7 Nationally Accredited child care centers located within Brown County.


Robin Fox PhD.

Robin Fox started her career in early childhood at the Wisconsin Dells Head Start after receiving degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child and Family Studies. She then taught and later directed the UW-Whitewater Children's Center while completing her master's degree in Early Childhood Exceptional Educational Needs. After directing the center she started teaching in the College of Education and Professional Studies, helping to develop their Dual License Early Childhood Program. Currently she is the Associate Dean of the college and continues to coordinate the Early Childhood Conference.Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD

Born in London and raised in New York City, Dipesh Navsaria MPH, MSLIS, MD is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He practices primary care pediatrics at Access Community Health Center and is the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin.


If you like what you hear and want to continue the conversation, each of our EdTalk presenters will offer a “Focus Session” on a related topic directly following the Keynote.

Featured Speaker | 2:45 pm Saturday October 15 | 2:45pm

alvin irby, founder and cri (chief reading officer), barbershop booksAlvin Irby

Kale Salad, Laundromats, and Obama: How cultural competency creates transformative learning experiences

This session will examine the role of cultural competency in early childhood classrooms and investigate barriers to culturally responsive programs, curriculum, and pedagogy.

Alvin Irby is Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books, a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops. As a national speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, Irby has inspired thousands of educators and youth development professionals across America. He studied Sociology and Economics at Grinnell College and holds a Master’s of Science in General Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education and a Masters of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. Irby has served as Education Director at the Boys’ Club of New York and taught kindergarten and first grade in both charter and district schools.